Everything in the sky has a name. The most recent discoveries only carry scientific codes and tags as monikers but some things are so ancient that they have names that date back hundreds and even thousands of years. The six brightest objects in our sky all reside within our solar system: the sun, the moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. All of these objects have ancient names because they have been visible since the very first humans ever decided to look up and wonder what was up there.
So how did Saturn, one of the six bright objects, get its name?
Saturn is named for the Roman god that goes by the same name. Saturn was one of the most important gods in Roman culture, and it is fitting that he received the honor of having a planet named after him. The God Saturn was the Roman god of plenty, agriculture, and time. Saturn has been visible in the sky for thousands of years, but the Romans bestowed the name that would eventually become ubiquitous.
Saturn was extremely important to the Roman people and was even the subject of one of their greatest annual festivals, Saturnalia, which occurred in December each year.
In fact, all of the major visible planets are named after Roman gods. Saturn’s closest neighbor, Jupiter, was also a Roman god and one that was closely related to Saturn in the pantheon. Saturn was considered to be the father or predecessor to Jupiter who was conflated with the Greek god Zeus.
Saturn is one of the slowest moving objects in the night sky. Its long orbit makes it so that it traverses the sky at a meandering pace which could have been one of the reasons it was named for the plodding god of time.
Does Saturn have a nickname?
When it comes to nicknames, the planets are not famous for possessing particularly clever ones. In fact, most of the nicknames for the planets are rather dull and unimaginably descriptive. Mars, for example, has the nickname the Red Planet.
Saturn’s nickname is in a similar vein. Saturn’s nickname is simply the Ringed Planet.
The nickname is derived from the large and extensive ring system which orbits the planet and gives Saturn much of its natural beauty and mythos. The rings are so large and advanced that they can be seen from Earth with only minor assistance needed from a telescope.
Ancient sources sometimes referred to the planets as meandering stars or wandering stars. When you look up at night, the planets look like stars upon first glance, but over the course of time, they do not move like the rest of the stars. This odd behavior in relation to the rest of the stars in the sky was what prompted them to be named for gods. They looked as though they had personalities and a will of their own.
However, Saturn did not take any other super interesting nicknames other than from the god it was named for. Saturn is simply known by its name and by the nickname the Ringed Planet.
Next time you look up and spot Saturn hanging in the sky, be sure to think back to the Roman culture that named it many years ago now you know this interesting Saturn fact.