The Cold North

Kol Facula

Kol Facula (390 km diameter, 4.5 N, 282.7 W).

The term facula (Latin ‘little torch’, plural faculae) describes a bright spot on a planetary surface. Such features may be created by impacts exposing ice brighter than its surrounding rock. On Callisto, faculae take their names from characters associated with cold, frost and sleet. The large bright spot a few degrees north of Callisto’s equator has been assigned the name Kol Facula.

The saga must also mention a man by the name Kolr, of whom a great many things are told: first, that he was as large as a giant, as ugly as the devil, and so skilled in magic that he could pass through the earth as well as walk upon it, glue together steeds and stars, and was so great a shape-shifter that he could burst into the shape of various kinds of animals.

Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar (The Saga of Þorsteinn, Víkingr’s son), chapter 3

AM 152 1-2 fol., f. 116

Beginning of Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar in a manuscript collection of fornaldarsögur. Reykjavík, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, AM 152 1 fol., f. 116.

Kol Facula takes its name from one of the Icelandic fornaldarsögur (sagas of ancient times), exciting tales of quest and adventure that locate their action in misty Scandinavian prehistory. The name originates in Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar (The Saga of Þorsteinn, Víkingr’s son), probaby composed c. 1300. The saga's opening chapters tell how the terrible giant Kolr – nicknamed kropinnbak (‘humpback’) – comes from a place in the far north to India, where, with his tremendous strength and magic, he makes himself king.

The name Kol Facula applies to a bright spot on Callisto's terrain, perhaps debris from the moon's icy crust that has been exposed in a collision with an impactor from the cold dark reaches of our solarsystem. The terrible giant Kolr, who comes from the frozen north and subdues a kingdom with his magic, is a fitting namesake.