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Apollo 1 astronauts, trained in rudimentary celestial navigation, named useful stars after one another. And while minor planets, comets, planetary features, and asteroids have their own naming conventions, exoplanets are new territory, not something the International Astronomical Union, could have easily prophesied when it was founded in 1919. The IAU begs of us: their job is already insane. The very idea that the Universe can be portioned off and named according to sensible and consistent standards is so completely tenuous at its core that the slightest disruption could upset everything.

Astronomical objects our ancestors perceived (and named) as single stars have since turned out to be entire galaxies, containing multitudes. It’s one thing to name the handful of rocks in our neighborhood after Greek and Roman gods, but the average rate of exoplanet discovery has shot up in recent years, with new detections announced practically weekly, thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope. There are 998 million entries in the Guide Star Catalog–that’s almost 100 million distinct astronomical objects. Could it be that the International Astronomical Union is outpaced? Maybe, at at certain point, for a cluster of lifeforms on a rock, delegated to a cold corner of the universe, maybe, the enterprise of total galactic taxonomy becomes more than a little Sisyphean?


— From, Sorry, But You Can’t Name That Exoplanet, on Motherboard

Posted 1 year ago and has 19 notes
#cle #motherboard