Sci-fi becoming real: star and planet with names from Lem’s books

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially announced that a planet discovered by the Polish astronomers has been named “Pirx”, and the star it orbits - “Solaris”. Both names come from books of acclaimed Polish sci-fi writer, Stanisław Lem.

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On the centenary of its establishment, IAU organised a contest IAU100 NameExoWorlds. Every country in the world received a chance to name planets and stars.

Poland was given an opportunity to name system BD+14 4559, in which a planet is located, discovered by the astronomical team consisting of professors Andrzej Niedzielski and Aleksander Wolszczan, and doctors Monika Adamów and Grzegorz Nowak.

“Solaris” is the title of one of Stanisław Lem’s most famous books. In this novel, it was a planet covered with a massive ocean. “Pirx”, on the other hand, comes from “Tales of Pirx the Pilot” collection of sci-fi stories.

Both names will be used officially along with the scientific names of the planet and the star.

The largest number of votes received a pair Geralt/Ciri (characters from “The Witcher” universe), but IAU, which had the decisive voice did not accept it because one of the conditions of accepting names is that they are not trademarks and both Geralt and Ciri can be considered as such, even though the Polish committee insisted that they are more associated with just heroes of novels, games and the series.

The idea of naming a star and a planet Pirx and Solaris came from Eryk Nowik from the town of Siemiatycze, eastern Poland. Moreover, Piotr Kancerek from Włoszczowa, central Poland, proposed the same names the other way round (planet - Solaris, star - Prix).

Among other pairs submitted there were two Slavic deities Svarog and Veles, Twardowski and Boruta (characters from Polish legends) and Radium and Polonium (Rad and Polon in Polish, the elements discovered by Maria Skłodowska-Curie).