Earthlings botch naming of potentially habitable planets

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At least one of the seven rocky planets orbiting Trappist-1 better have a beach and a margarita machine, non-experts said. (Image from NASA)

As any graduate of the Electoral College will tell you, the public cannot be trusted.

When the U.K. needed help naming a new $287 million polar research ship, the masses voted for “Boaty McBoatface.”

Someone who wears a suit and a frown to work decided to override the public will and name it the “RRS Sir David Attenborough.”

The Internet’s hive mind then floated the idea that Attenborough, a famous naturalist, should formally change his name to Boaty McBoatface.

Nonsense is the coin of the online realm.

When a company called Pepsi, which I am told makes beverages akin to Coca-Cola, needed a catchy name for a new flavor of Mountain Dew, the public suggested “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong,” “Diabeetus,” “Moist Nugget” and other things they made me delete before this column hit the newspaper.

When VH1 asked the public to pick the location for a free Taylor Swift concert, they picked a school for the deaf.

Last week NASA, which is supposed to be full of smart people, asked the Internet to suggest names for seven new Earth-like planets orbiting a distant star called Trappist-1.

The results were as predictable Planet McPlanetface.

That’s not a great name, but I like it better than Trappist-1b, Trappist-1c, etc., which is the best NASA could come up with.

A friend suggested naming them after beers made by Trappist monks — Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel — and turning each of the planets into humongous breweries. Not bad, but I’d prefer any monk that makes beer remain on Earth.

What would Georgians call these planets?

Hard to say, but “Whooptater,” “Dale Earnheart Sr.,” “Dale Earnheart Jr.,” “Ain’t Skeered,” “Rise Up!,” “SunTrust Planet” and “Hammerin’ Hank” have a ring to ’em.

Or, the smallest planet could be “Honey Boo Boo” and the largest one (which may or may not be shrinking) could be “Mama June.”

The frosty outer planet whipping around that solar system’s perimeter will be dubbed “Kasim” if blue lights are detected.

My first thought was to name the planets orbiting the red dwarf star after Snow White’s seven dwarfs but no one would want to live on “Dopey” and, after a 39-light-year voyage, most everyone would be quarantined on “Grumpy” anyway.

Would Obamacare be repealed and replaced on “Doc?”

Would allergies be a problem on “Sneezy?”

We will never know. Thirty-nine light years is about 229 trillion miles, says Space.com. The fastest ship humans have ever made, NASA’s Juno spacecraft, was cruising along at 165,000 mph as it approached Jupiter. If a spaceship could maintain that speed it would take 159,000 years to reach Trappist-1 and first-class would likely run out of adult beverages somewhere around Pluto.

No thanks. There’s something about a breathable atmosphere that makes Earth feel like home.

But I do hope the new planets get cooler names. And the people living there don’t mind us renaming them.


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