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Thread: To Name a Star

  1. #1

    To Name a Star

    If and when mankind starts traveling to the stars, do you think they will keep their numbered/lettered star survey names like "Gliese 343", "Ross 401", "Chi Virginis" or will they give them city-like names ("New Gettysburg")? I personally lean toward the city-style of star and planet naming.

    I like the "classical" names like Sirius, Polaris, Arcturus, etc as they are recognizable and sound cool. Some other numbered/lettered stars will likely keep their names mainly because there's been loads of fiction written with them. I'm looking at you, Alpha Centauri and Epsilon Eridani.

    However, I've never been a fan of the science-fiction use of numerical star names like "Wolf 359". That's not even a name, it's an entry in a catalog. I've always thought that if people wanted to live there they would give it an actual place name. Worse yet is when people use a NGC-name for a star. NGCs are star clusters and not individual stars, so it's basically like making the Kessel run in under three parsecs.

    What do you guys and gals think?

  2. #2
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Well...I imagine that realistically, our species will implode before we manage to get off planet, but if we do somehow beat the enormous odds (we have so far!), then I imagine that things will be named by whomever decides to colonize it. So, say, it's a contingent from India that gets to colonize it, they'll name it after a Hindu god or something. If, say, it's a group from Germany that gets to colonize it, they'll name it something according to some strict engineering rules or something. I don't know. I'm just guessing. If it were me, I'd name it after my big toe.

    B'gtoe

    Has an interesting ring to it, no?

  3. #3
    Speaks fluent Bawehrf zachariah's Avatar
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    I think you're over-complicating this. How many times does 'Sol' come up in conversation, even between astronomers? The inhabitants will be much more invested in the name of their planet and its contents than whatever the star is called.

    It's not like we ever consider ourselves to be Solans/Solites or inhabitants of the Solar System. Likewise, the people who get to live on a planet around Wolf 359 aren't going to worry that their star name doesn't roll off the tongue. They'll just call it the Sun, like we do, and get on with more important things.

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    Things Fall Apart AZimmer23's Avatar
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    A little pessimistic, aren't we, TMSO?

    I understand what you're saying, but my belief is that if we ever make it to the point of colonizing other worlds, nationalities will be a thing of the past. We will have evolved to the point that we no longer recognize racial of ethnic differences and understand that we are all one. (Utopian, I know) However, it would be sad to lose our past and stop remembering cultural legends and myths that are part of the diversity that makes life so interesting, so perhaps there will be colonies named for Apollo, Odin or Ganesh.

    So who knows? I certainly hope there aren't numbers in the names, though.

    Me, I'd like to live on a planet named after Loki. I don't think things there would ever be boring.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by tmso View Post
    Well...I imagine that realistically, our species will implode before we manage to get off planet, but if we do somehow beat the enormous odds (we have so far!), then I imagine that things will be named by whomever decides to colonize it. So, say, it's a contingent from India that gets to colonize it, they'll name it after a Hindu god or something. If, say, it's a group from Germany that gets to colonize it, they'll name it something according to some strict engineering rules or something. I don't know. I'm just guessing. If it were me, I'd name it after my big toe.

    B'gtoe

    Has an interesting ring to it, no?
    That's funny.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zachariah View Post
    They'll just call it the Sun, like we do, and get on with more important things.
    I think that's quite likely. It's also worth noting that there are around 100,000,000,000 stars in this galaxy alone, so we're going to run out of unique names before long .

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Edward M. Grant View Post
    I think that's quite likely. It's also worth noting that there are around 100,000,000,000 stars in this galaxy alone, so we're going to run out of unique names before long .
    Yes, and please don't name them all prior to starting your story. You'll run out of time.

  8. #8
    Autistic Madman D.R. Stevenson's Avatar
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    Who ever holds the star system should name the star in their home language be it human or alien. Two rival governments or corporations might have a different name for the same system. Maybe they end up just handing a star a serial number because star systems have constant name changes due to ownership changes. Pick up an almanac from the 70's then look at the world flags.Once you did that go pick up an alanac from 2012 and see how many countries changed flags or got new names.

  9. #9
    Fictional Mountain Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward M. Grant View Post
    I think that's quite likely. It's also worth noting that there are around 100,000,000,000 stars in this galaxy alone, so we're going to run out of unique names before long .
    I look forward to the time when we are running out of unique names and people just start bsing names for their new systems. You have the right idea tmso. It's going to come down to people just looking at random junk wherever they are and picking it as the name. I'm going with Tagalong for my star and naming the planets after the lesser girl scout cookies.

  10. #10
    Things Fall Apart AZimmer23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tennesseemcvay View Post
    I look forward to the time when we are running out of unique names and people just start bsing names for their new systems. You have the right idea tmso. It's going to come down to people just looking at random junk wherever they are and picking it as the name. I'm going with Tagalong for my star and naming the planets after the lesser girl scout cookies.
    Tagalong would be a great name for the lesser star in a binary system. Girl scout cookies deserve to have stars named after them. I'll take living on Loki in the Thin Mint/Tagalong system, please and thank you.

    Or, if we're just looking around our rooms, how about HairBall circling Empty Battery Container? Wheeee!

  11. #11
    Bewildered Visitor Wojciehowicz's Avatar
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    Astronavigation will always follow astrometric observations and standards just as navigation on Earth always follows the 'official' names of places and things. It's just as simple as that. Planets may circle stars, but interest in planets is separate from stars. Planets are lived on, circled around, otherwise focused upon, and their naming would be separate. Vulcan is the name of the world, not the star, in Star Trek. Note that wherever people go, they name the planet. Some they just keep the astrometric designation, others they name the planet more colorfully, but the star is usually kept under its catalog entry. Why? Because only astronavigation cares about the star that the planet circles and the people going to the planet only care about that place.

    It is unlikely that whole planets will be named after cities. If star travel is international and not national, the old ethnicities and area identities will still remain (and thinking otherwise is ludicrous denial of 8,000+ years of recorded human history and behavior), and people will want to 'represent' for their group. Coming from the NE USA where half the towns seemed to be named for places in lower England, I'm not crazy about 'New Anything'. But I won't hold my breath that they will be much more original. But stars? No one goes to a star. They go to a planet. That's what they'll worry about naming.

    NOTE: If anyone takes offense at the use of the word 'ludicrous' I suggest that they remember that forum posts are 99.995% opinion which everyone has a right to and will be different from every other and also that we are supposed to be writers with a vocabulary beyond simple sentences that are guaranteed to offend no one.
    Last edited by Wojciehowicz; March 28th, 2012 at 04:46 PM.

  12. #12
    It's true that a star isn't a place to live, it's a source of energy and gravity and a very massive navigational aid. With that in mind, "town" names certainly make less sense than arbitrary names.

    If you consider any commonly-used navigational point, it is much easier for humans to deal with a pronouncable name instead of a catalog number. A good analogy is NDB, VOR and GPS navigation points used by aircraft. (source: http://skyvector.com) A lot of nav points don't represent anything meaningful on the ground. Some are literally beacons sitting in a field, while GPS nav points can be arbitrary points in three-dimensional space. However, they are given pronouncable names like WARPI, PAPPI, and DEERE so that pilots can recognize them over the radio.

    After thinking about it for a while, I am actually all in favor of whimsical, meaningless star names. Tagalong, Samoa, even Thin Mint could be perfectly reasonble stars. (although green stars shouldn't naturally exist - maybe Thin Mint has a green colored gas disk or something) In any case they would be easier to say than "Gliese 512".


    Oh, and naming an entire planet after a place on Earth is entirely reasonable and non-ludicrous IMO. Let's say we launch a city-sized colony ship at a habitable planet. The colony is completely owned by the USA so they call their planet "New Florida". Best case scenario, the colony stays US-owned and mostly US-populated, and New Florida continues to make sense. Worst case scenario, a bunch of North Korean colonists land on the planet and found "Kim Jong Eun City, New Florida". If they overrun the US colonists they'll probably rename the planet. Much like Burma/Myanmar on Earth, one place can definitely be called different names by different political factions. And there's nothing wrong with ludicrously absurd place names. Just ask Brazil, IN, Moon, PA, and Versailles, KY.
    Last edited by Piousflea; April 1st, 2012 at 08:15 PM.

  13. #13
    Magob Autocrat baragh's Avatar
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    I'm too lazy to look it up exactly, but I thought I remembered some program NASA's been doing where they're offering to name newly discovered stars after donors? Whether a name sticks to a star or not, who knows?

    I imagine it would be similar to the evolution of place names here on earth - New York used to be New Amsterdam; Mississippi, among many others, is the Americanization of native speech; iirc Spain was Iberia in Roman times; etc.

    Whether stars have "technical" names in the future or not probably has a lot to do with the population and whether they think it's important enough to rename the star or not. Then, of course, remember that not everyone will call it the same thing. English is funny about giving its own names to other places, eg, "Germany" for "Deutschland," etc.

  14. #14
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    "Earth" isn't a very imaginitive name for a planet, so we're not the best at this sort of thing. All of the other planets in this solar system have far 'cooler' names than the only one that's populated, crazy! Why don't we swap names with Saturn, or Jupiter, no-ones going to sue us are they.

    When (not if, in my opinion) we go to the stars it will be to systems identified by SETI and the planet hunters as harbouring technoligically advanced life. As such, I think THEY will tell us what their star and planets are called.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by baragh View Post
    I'm too lazy to look it up exactly, but I thought I remembered some program NASA's been doing where they're offering to name newly discovered stars after donors? Whether a name sticks to a star or not, who knows?
    So-called "star registries" where you pay money to get a certificate showing your name on a star are a semi-famous hoax, a slightly more modern variation of buying deeds to land on the Moon or under the sea. The certificate is completely meaningless.

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