On the tip of your tongue?

Names such as “Sirius” and “Rigel” are traditional, mostly ancient, and used for a few dozen naked-eye stars. Designations such as Alpha Canis Majoris and PSR 1757+12 are the work of cataloguers and scientists. The International Astronomical Union has committees that approve names of various kinds,st such as for comets or craters; it has had nothing to do with the traditional star names – until now. As you may have read in the April issue of Sky & Telescope, the IAU approved last December a list of “common” names for some obscure stars, after “a wildly popular public contest” in which 573,742 people voted. I just want to know what you think.

14 Andromedae gets a name, Veritate
47 Draconis: Fafnir
47 Ursae Majoris: Chalawan
51 Pegasi: Helvetios
55 Cancri: Copernicus
epsilon Eridani: Ran
HD 104985: Tonatiuh
HD 149026: Ogma
HD 81688: Intercrus
mu Arae: Cervantes
PSR 1757+12: Eich
upsilon Andromedae: Titawin
xi Aquilae: Libertas

This isn’t quite the complete list: these stars are among those now known to have planets, and the purpose of this naming was perhaps mainly to give names to those exoplanets, as if we might one day land on them and want to call them by something friendlier than PSR 1757+12 b. Mu Arae is to be “Cervantes,” so its planets are Quijote, Dulcinea, Rocinante, and Sancho. Well, I can’t bring myself to dislike anything that has to do with Don Quixote. Some of the names are marked with asterisks meaning that they have been “modified from the original proposals to be consistent with IAU rules.” That statement could do with amplification.


7 thoughts on “On the tip of your tongue?”

  1. I’m touched and amused that E.E. Smith is commemorated and the Lensmen are remembered, if only with the name of their mortal enemy. Did you ever read Randall Garrett’s pastiche? I think it was called “Backstage Lensman”.

  2. I hope we can land on an exoplanet some day.

    Interstellar travel may be possible with with ion propulsion. We have about 5 billion years to figure it out.

    1. Surely the great obstacle is that it would take eight years to exchange one message, at light speed, with even the nearest star, and thousands of times longer to get there even by an accelerating method; multiply by hundreds, thousands, or millions for other stars. I have thought that interstellar communication and travel would be feasible only for beings that live thousands of times more slowly than we do.

      1. Beings may live longer if time slows with increased velocity.

        Or maybe a multi-generation mission would make interstellar travel feasible, but so far we can’t create an artificial biosphere on Earth, let alone in outer space far from significant stellar radiation.

        You’re probably right. If we are stuck here at least it’s a beautiful place to be trapped.

  3. I think it’s rather sweet. I especially like 55 Cancri’s new designation as Copernicus, with planets Galileo, Brahe, Lippershey, Janssen, and Harriot. I would have honored Kepler before Lippershey, Janssen, or Harriot, but the nomination came from the Royal Dutch Society for Meteorology and Astronomy, so they get to promote their compatriots.

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