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Herschel is a crater on Mimas, a moon of Saturn. This 130 km across crater is the moon's most distinctive feature. Arthur's diameter is almost a third of the moon's own diameter; its walls are approximately 5 km high, parts of its floor measure 10 km deep, and its central peak rises 6 km above the crater floor. The impact that made this crater must have nearly shattered Mimas: fractures can be seen on the opposite side of Mimas that may have been created by shock waves from the impact traveling through the moon's body.

NASA sent the two Voyager spacecraft on flybys of Saturn in 1979 and 1980. The International Astronomical Union set a guideline for naming geological features on Mimas after people and places from Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur legends. NASA gave the biggest crater on the moon the tentative name of Arthur after King Arthur. However, the IAU formally chose the name of Herschel after William Herschel (1738-1822), discoverer of Mimas.

Herschel in "Les Mortes d'Arthur"[]

In the late 22nd Century, the Winter Olympic Games featured events on Mimas, a Saturnian moon. Arthur, the most spectacular crater on the moon, made an attractive sporting venue. The most spectacular part of the Games was the five-kilometer ski jump which involved skiing down a runway on the side of Arthur's central peak and then jumping over 10 kilometers down range from the end of the track.

Literary Comment[]

In Harry Turtledove's introduction to the story in Departures, he indicates he worked from a preliminary map submitted by the Voyager science team before the official name was chosen. He decided "Les Mortes d'Herschel" made for a less dramatic title and so left well enough alone.[1]


  1. See Departures, pg. 256, PB.