Today’s post is a special A to Z Challenge edition of Sciency Words, an ongoing series here on Planet Pailly where we take a look at some interesting science or science related term so we can all expand our scientific vocabularies together. In today’s post, E is for:
What planet do you live on? What is its name? Officially?
If you’re a regular reader of science fiction, you may have seen your home planet referred to by several “official” names: Terra, Gaia, Telluria, or perhaps Sol III.
But in real life, the International Astronomy Union (I.A.U.) is the only organization that gets to decide what planets and other objects in space are officially named. We’ll be hearing a lot about the I.A.U. as this Sciency Words: A to Z challenge continues.
And according to the I.A.U., our planet is officially and unambiguously named Earth. Except when it’s not. The I.A.U. makes the concession that Earth’s name is different in different languages, though they do insist that it should always be treated as a proper noun.
That may seem like common sense. It would be extremely culturally insensitive to force the English name for our planet on every other culture in the world. But in fact the I.A.U. seems to be making a special exception for Earth (and also for the Sun, the Moon, and the Solar System) by allowing other languages to use other names.
For example, they want you to call Mars Mars regardless of what language you speak, at least for the purposes of scientific discourse. Saturn should always be called Saturn, and Pluto should always be called Pluto—and don’t you dare call Pluto a planet!—according to the I.A.U.
As I said, we’ll be hearing a lot about the I.A.U. as the month progresses.
Next time on Sciency Words: A to Z Challenge, we’ll leave Earth (or whatever it’s called) behind and visit a frostier region of the Solar System.