Miguel de Cervantes in Space

As far as we yet know, the stellar system Mu Arae has four planets. Some three-hundred trillion miles away, it is not a particularly conspicuous star in the not particularly conspicuous constellation of Ara, the altar.

A few years ago, the International Astronomical Union authorized the naming of select stars and their planets. A planetarium in Spain was given the honor of naming, and I applaud the choice of Cervantes for the yellow central sun. This author‘s most famous characters’ names were given to the planets. Good move there, too.

Except for one factor … The relative sizes of the four planets. Three are as massive as Jupiter. The smaller inner one, like Neptune. From the wiki site:

Companion
(in order from star)
Mass Semimajor axis
(AU)
Orbital period
(days)
c (Dulcinea) >0.03321 MJ 0.09094 9.6386 ± 0.0015
d (Rocinante) >0.5219 MJ 0.921 310.55 ± 0.83
b (Quijote) >1.676 MJ 1.497 643.25 ± 0.90
e (Sancho) >1.814 MJ 5.235 4205.8 ± 758.9

So the second-largest planet is named for the lead character, the largest for his sidekick, the smallest for the woman who is the object of his affections. And the horse gets number three.

Nobody will ever live on these planets–they are all like Jupiter. And Dulcinea is a very hot Neptune that might be stripped to a big hunk of rock. But Quijote or Rocinante could have moons. And people might eventually get to these. I wonder what we’d name those.

Image credit.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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