Thursday, December 17, 2015

Names for Stars and Exoplanets

The International Astronomical Union has announced the results of its internet poll on the names for new exoplanets and the stars they circle. The bodies to be named were parceled out among countries that wanted to participate. One of these was Thailand, where the people named a star Chalawan and its two confirmed planets Taphao Thong and Taphao Kaew. I know you're wondering what that could possibly mean, so I looked it up. The star in question is in Ursa Major, which the Thais call the Crocodile, and Chalawan is a crocodile from a famous Thai folk tale. Taphao Thong and Taphao Kaew were two sisters taken captive by Chalawan. Who was of course slain in the end by a hero who then married both sisters.

On the other hand maybe those words actually mean something totally different and Thais are just trolling us. Who would know?

The star formerly known as 42 Draconis has become Fafnir, thanks to Americans, which I think  is cool, and its planet is Orbitar, which sounds like something from a cheesy Star Trek episode. They couldn't have picked something else from the Siegfried cycle? Hagen? Brunhilde?

Spaniards renamed mu Arae "Cervantes," and its planets Quijote, Dulcinea, Rocinante, and Sancho.

The Italians were assigned the task of coming up with better names than PSR 1257+12 (the star) and  PSR 1257+12b, PSR 1257+12c, and PSR 1257+12d. They voted for Lich, Draugr, Poltergeist, and Phobetor. Planet Lich sounds like the title of an old paperback sci-fi novel like the ones I bought for 25 cents out of a bin at the used book store back in Rolla.

The Mexicans named a star Tonatiuh, for the Aztec sun god, and its planet Meztli, for the moon goddess.

If you don't like these names, relax, there are still about 2,000 more exoplanets to name.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

As the famous saying goes, "The wonder is, not that the field of stars of so vast, but that man has measured it."

And now, having measured it, we're busy happily continuing the tradition of weaving our myths and legends into the universe. I suppose it remains to be seen if the vastness of human culture can match that of the cosmos.