A Short Dictionary of Astronomical Daffy-nitions
Article by Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College & Astronomical Society of the Pacific)
© copyright 2005 by Andrew Fraknoi (used with permission)
He is on Facebook: Andrew Fraknoi (The AstroProf) www.facebook.com/Fraknoi
Originally published in Mercury Magazine (Astronomical Society of the Pacific).
Many good books and texts on astronomy provide a helpful glossary of technical terms for the beginning reader. Useful as such lists are, they usually list only the standard definition of each term. Here are some decidedly non-standard alternatives for some important astronomical jargon.
Antiproton: Whom Uncle Proton is married to.
Apex: What the naturalist trained the apes to make
Baryon: I am sorry, sir, you can’t go in there; the sign says Mr. Manilow is performing.
Charge-coupled device: The electric chair
Contact binary: Tango partners
Continuous creation: Yet another non-technical physics book from Paul Davies or John Gribbin
Convection Current: The electric chair
Curve of Growth: What happens to the midriff bulge of an astronomy department administrator
Declination: Thanks, Norbert, but I really don’t want to go out with you.
Decoupling Era: What happened to marriage in the 1980’s and 1990’s
Deferent: Oh, no, Dr. Sandage, I am sure your value for the Hubble constant is the right one.
Degenerate Stars: A Hollywood orgy.
Early-type star: Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Spielberg, I thought the cast party started at 8
Einstein Ring: What Albert bought Mileva.
Exit pupil: Another non-science major who didn’t finish Astronomy 101
Fission: What some astronomers like to go do to relax during the summer
Forbidden Line Transition: “Nice weather we’re having…say, would you like to come up to my place and see my etchings?”
Great Red Spot: A popular nightclub in Beijing
Green Flash: The brief period when dot.com’s were all the rage.
G Star: Actor who appears mainly on the Disney Channel
Hour Circle: What you do when your flight arrival is delayed over San Francisco
Hubble’s Constant: What his wife Grace hoped he would always be
Image Tube: Television set with the sound broken.
Initial Mass Function: Celebration after a child’s first Communion
International Date Line: Where lonely astronomers can call 24 hours a day
Interstellar Medium: Fortune teller in Hollywood between jobs
Inverse Square Law: Making a poem out of the Pythagorean theorem
Jansky: What Jan uses to open his door
Late-type Star: See early-type star and make your own joke. (Do we have to spell everything out for you?)
Leap second: You have to; I leaped first.
Lepton Era: When the big cats roamed the jungle.
Light Year: When your classes were easy and you didn’t have to take too many in your major.
Line Broadening: What happens to an astronomer’s profile after age 50
Local Group: The rock band that plays down the street
Local Standard of Rest: Sorry, senor, we always close in the afternoon for a siesta.
Main Sequence Turn-off Point: The moment in a long lecture on stellar evolution where students stop paying attention
Messier Catalog: The one that got dropped in the mud
Near Earth Object: Your astronomy textbook, just after you threw it out the window
Olbers’ Paradox: Before she had that operation, Mrs. Olbers wanted an opinion from another doctor
Peculiar Motion: Astronomers trying to do the hula during a conference in Hawaii
Prominence: Being invited to write a review paper for Annual Reviews
Proper Motion: Bill to increase funding for astronomical research
Recombination Line: Darling, I’ve never loved anyone but you; please take me back.
Roche Limit: Enjoy it, Bill, but if you want to be president someday, perhaps you shouldn’t inhale.
Quantum Efficiency: Apartment unit in Tokyo
Quasar Red Shift: Broken color control on famous brand TV
Radio Burst: Time to get another set
Red Giant: The basketball player who spent too much of the weekend on the beach.
Sirius B: What Yoda was always trying to teach his apprentices
Spectral Line: Beware, this house is haunted
T Association: The Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse
Tektite: Maybe piping some music into the dome will loosen him up
Van Allen Belt: What Dr. Van Allen wears to hold up his pants
Variable Star: The artist formerly known as Prince
More Delightful Definitions
Red Shift - what will happen if Obama is re-elected President in 2012 (according to some Republicans)
Wormholes - used by staff of the Space Station to go home for the weekend.
LCROSS - this is NOT a new sport. Real definition: The Launch Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.
NASA - No Aliens Seen Anywhere
The above are my efforts.
Contact me if you have more to share.
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