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Tatooine, Hamlet, Thor all better planet names than TRAPPIST-1

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On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a team of scientists announced the discovery of a small star and its seven orbiting, roughly Earth-sized planets. Of these seven planets, three are within the habitable zone, which means they have conditions favorable for liquid water, making them theoretically habitable.

When I first heard of the discovery, I was fascinated with the these new planets, and I still am. Yet my fascination was tinged with disappointment the moment I read the name of the star, and the names of the planets which orbit it.

This new star is named TRAPPIST-1A and the new planets are named TRAPPIST-1B through TRAPPIST-1H. They are so named because they were discovered with the TRAPPIST telescope, with TRAPPIST being an acronym for Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope.

These potential space colonies have now been named after an acronym for a telescope–and a bad acronym at that.”

— Jaren Tankersley

These potential space colonies have now been named after an acronym for a telescope–and a bad acronym at that.

I do not claim to be a scientist, and I freely admit I do not fully understand the study of other planets or stars. Compared to the NASA scientists who discovered the TRAPPIST-1 system, I posses the intellect of an ant. Yet if I am an ant, I am an ant who understands the value of an effective, thought-out name. As TRAPPIST-1 is the antithesis of an effective, thought-out name, below are my humble suggestions as to possible planet and sun names. Feel free to use them, NASA–just please do so before I grow accustomed to saying “Trappist.”

When man first discovered the planets in our own solar system, the archaic scientific community named these extraterrestrial bodies for Greek and Roman deities. A blood red planet was named after the god of war, the fastest named for the messenger god and the coldest for the god of the underworld, although the debate rages on as to whether Pluto is a planet (it’s not).

As the Greek and Roman pantheon is somewhat extinguished, NASA could move to using a different variety of mythic figures. I, being of European descent, am partial to the Norse gods of yore. The Valhalla system, or just Valhalla, comprised of planets Thor, Loki, Frigg, Freyja, Freyr, Hel and Njörðr, all circling the sun Odin, would possess an air of grandeur and vitality unheard in the utilitarian TRAPPIST-1. In addition, these names have some recognition thanks to Marvel’s…liberal reinterpretation of these characters.

I have difficulty saying these names aloud without slipping into my stage voice, while I have difficulty saying TRAPPIST-1 without slipping into a dull monotone.”

— Jaren Tankersley

For further name recognition, NASA need look no further than the great bard William Shakespeare. Most of Uranus’ moons are named for a character from Shakespeare’s works. Why then not christen planets from the cast list of his most impactful play, “Hamlet?” Claudius, Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, Horatio, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and of course the star, Hamlet. I have difficulty saying these names aloud without slipping into my stage voice, while I have difficulty saying TRAPPIST-1 without slipping into a dull monotone.

Yet if I am candid, there is one set of planet names I endorse far more than those named above. Science fiction writers far more skilled than I have been naming fictional worlds for decades. Of special note are the wondrous names found a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Yes, I propose NASA adopt the names of the planets seen in “Star Wars.” Tatooine, Naboo, Coruscant, Bespin, Dagobah, Hoth and Yavin are tried and true planet names, and the sun of the system could actually be called the Death Star. Yes, I am a geek. No, I do not care. If the idea of living on a real Dagobah fails to make your inner 10-year-old within scream with glee, I hold little hope for you. While naming planets for Star Wars may be low-brow pop-cultural referencing, at least Hoth is not an acronym.

I am aware NASA will probably not read this, and I am aware suggesting planet names in such a manner is the height of arrogance. However, I am also aware that every name I have suggested is far and away superior to TRAPPIST-1A and TRAPPIST-1B through H. I am 17. A junior in high school who cannot vote should not be able to effectively name groundbreaking scientific discoveries in a few paragraphs better than those who made the discoveries.

So NASA, please, I beg of you, name this the Billy Ray Cyrus system, the Bob the Tomato system, the Mahogany Table system. Just please do not name a planet where my grandchildren might live TRAPPIST-1C.

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About the Contributor
Jaren Tankersley, Co-Editor in Chief

Salutations, I am Jaren Tankersley. I am a senior, and I am very excited to spend my third and final year on the Eagle’s Tale staff as Co-Editor-in-Chief....

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Tatooine, Hamlet, Thor all better planet names than TRAPPIST-1