Since November 9th of last year, the majority of us have been feeling rather trapped, endangered, if you will.
When NASA broke news of discovering seven Earth-like planets each in their system’s habitable zone, millions came to the Professor’s conclusion:
But, wait, things aren’t so bad. And traveling 40 light years is impossible. We live here, for better or worse. Lately, granted, it’s mostly been worse. We all look up to the heavens, the deep void, to be inspired, to feel hope.
Naming our aspirations matter. While I love the work that so many astronomers and astrophysicists do, they routinely fail at that most fundamental human trait–naming. Last year, as an adamic exercise, I took it upon myself to name some worlds, some exoplanets.
The planetary system is known as TRAPPIST-1 (Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope). I prefer to think of it not as an acronym but as a reference to the Trappist Catholic order, Cistercian monks making of the world’s finest beer. I would contend that Westvleteren would be a better name for this star and system, but in all honesty, Trappist is a good name.
As a means to connect what is out there with what we here experiencing, I propose these names for the seven known exoplanets of the Trappist System.
This week saw our nation’s leader decide some of the most vulnerable among us ought not to have basic bodily freedom. Thus, I propose naming the first planet of the Trappist system in honor of the Greek character Tiresias who lived as both a man and a woman. Tiresias has always been someone who traveled between presumably fixed states transgressing boundaries, thresholds. S/he was a myth granted a lifespan of seven lives.
The three tribes living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where protests against DAPL have been rigorous despite aggressive governmental action against the natives. Under the new presidential administration, the protest camp as been burnt to the ground.
Perhaps the most Earth-like of these seven Earth-like planets in terms of size. Aztlan is traditionally the name given to where the Aztec people lived. However, contemporary usage deploys it to denote the land with which Chicano activists identify. Given the current administration’s desire to expel Chicanos as well as the vast majority of Hispanic and Latinx from our nation, it seems appropriate there be a heavenly body out there emblazoned with a name that highlights their struggle and right.
Since the KKK is staunch ally of the current president, who has surrounded himself with vocal anti-semites and islamophobes, it’s not enough to punch neo-Nazis in the face. We should continue like Captain America to punch neo-Nazis in the face while we enshrine in the heavens planets named for an Arabic expression of hopefulness and a Hebrew word for ‘forgiveness.’