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European Space Agency Planning Quite Unusually Big Interstellar Telescope

The European Space Agency (ESA) recently announced that they were 50% done with the construction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in Chile’s Atacama Desert. This followed completion of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Pretty Large Telescope (PLT).

Mr. Pentium Sexium & the European Space Agency's ELT
Mr. Pentium Sexium & the European Space Agency’s ELT

F$JNews was curious about how the ESA came up with the names of their telescopes and what they had planned for the future. That led us to the Next Name Group and their CEO Pentium Sexium. We interviewed him at the site of the ELT itself.

The Next Name Group

“What does Next Name Group do?”

“The Next Name Group, or NNG, is a boutique marketing firm directly engaged with the concept of product series name planning.”

“That is quite a narrow field. How did you get involved?”

“My dad was a big fan of the Intel Pentium chips. He knew that after the Pentium, Intel would have to go with the next obvious Greek number – the Sexium. He thought it would be so cool that he changed our family name in anticipation. He also named me Pentium, you know – so the series would roll off the tongue. Of course, Intel tried hard to avoid the change, going with the Pentium Pro, then Pentium MMC, then Pentium II. Then they decided on Celeron and Xeon. They never got to Sexium. I’ve been living with the consequences of their lack of planning for my entire life. That’s why my life mission is making sure it never happens again.”

“Isn’t this really a simple thing to get right?”

“NO! This is a very complex field. Intel just didn’t think, dammit. The fact is that those who use simple numbers tend to have it easy. They had the 283, 386 and 486 – they could have just gone with the 586. But they decided they needed more than numbers. And they didn’t even plan one generation ahead. Idiots.”

Cars and Computers

“So who has done something other than pure numbers, correctly?”

“Take the Corvette with the C1 to C8 – there’s a little mystique, and a little Corvette in there. There is also a clear path into the indefinite future. But some add full words. Apple has OS X 10 Cheetah, followed by 10.1 Jaguar, then Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion. The Snow Leopard was a bit weak, but you can see a clear progression that can last for a few more cats. Of course, the order of the cats isn’t clear. I might have started with kitten and worked my way up to Tiger. But, it isn’t bad.”

The European Space Agency

“So what is the story with the Extremely Large Telescope?”

“The ELT represents the point at which NNG got involved. By that point Europe had already made the mistake of using even more grandiose synonyms for Big. In Europe’s case, we’re just going to have to keep going. Next up is the Really Intensely Big Interstellar Telescope (RIBIT). Then then Quite Unusually Big Interstellar Telescope (QUBIT), Hugely Ostentatious Telescope (HOT) and Really Extremely Massive Interstellar Telescope (REMIT). Every one will have an easy to remember acronym. How big they really sound doesn’t matter, because people can’t keep track of that anyway. Even more important, our plan covers the next 57 years of telescope planning.”

“Are you involved with the American space telescope naming effort?”
“No, and I’m glad we’re not. The Americans made the mistake of naming telescopes after giants in the field – like Hubble or Copernicus – with later telescopes getting named after progressively less important astronomers like Tim Buddress (planning for launch in 2053). But they haven’t hired us to fix that.”

So there you have it. We should all be ready for the RIBIT, QUBIT and REMIT coming to a desert or mountaintop near you.

Maybe you have a naming consultancy? If so, you could advertise on one of our articles and bring a little more appreciation for the work you do.

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