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  1. Tinw's Avatar
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    #1

    Middle-earth Is Orbiting Saturn

    I'm quite fond of the moon Titan. A satellite of the planet Saturn, 1.4 billion km from the Sun, Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system. Its chilly methane atmosphere is about -290° F, and it has methane oceans, lakes, and rivers which change sizes with the seasons. Apparently there are ferocious monsoons. At least some of the rocky land on Titan is actually water ice.

    About ten years ago, NASA sent the Cassini-Huygens probe to study Saturn and its moons, and dropped the Huygens probe through Titan's dense atmosphere to land on another world (photos of descent) -- the second time humans have ever landed a probe on a moon.


    Can you tell my grandmother was a planetarium director? At any rate, whenever NASA starts exploring a new world, they need a naming system.

    Some of these names on the work-in-progress map of Titan look awfully familiar:



    -- source: NASA photojournal (see link for detailed info) Cassini has been using radar to map Titan every time it passes by. The more detailed strips come from closer flybys.

    Admittedly, the map is a little confusing with the Latin, but I suppose most astronomers don't know Ered and Orod.

    Here's the website for the Cassini mission on their photo gallery page.


    Query: does anyone recognize the origin of Merlock?
    Last edited by Tinw; 26/Dec/2012 at 06:43 AM.

  2. Rainelle Hérandil's Avatar
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    #2
    OMG that is soooooooooo awesome! I love how they've got Angmar and Misty 'Montes' and Erebor.. and Mount Doom (Doom Montes) and all that.And Mithrim! lol! Clearly, one of the astronauts who named those things was a LOTR fan!

  3. geordie's Avatar
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    #3
    Wonderful! Thanks very much for sharing this with us, Tinw.

    Let's see now; Merlock. I don't know the word's origin; but the first time I remember seeing it is in JRR's poem 'The Mewlips', published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in 1962.

    "Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
    Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
    And through the wood of hanging trees and gallows-weed,
    You go to find the Mewlips - and the Mewlips feed."

    This poem is based on an earlier poem, published in 'The Oxford Magazine' on Feb. 18th, 1937. This poem is called 'Knocking at the Door' and subtitled 'Lines induced by sensations when waiting for an answer at the door of an Exalted Academic Person'. The poem is signed 'Oxymore'.

    Mind you; in this version it's not Merlock, but Morlock. Shades of H.G. Wells! I wonder if that were Tolkien's spelling, or a 'correction' at the printers'?
    It's all in the books...

  4. Fairy Nuff's Avatar
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    #4
    That is a fantastic naming system. Thanks for sharing, I never knew this, even being a science/space geek *geekfail*

    It will be interesting to see this map expanded further as the probe makes further sweeps of the surface - I wonder what other 'landmarks' will be named, and if they are just following a random list, or naming them based on their appearance/other characteristics.

    Maybe, at a point in the distant future, man will visit this moon, and actually get to go to Doom Montes...

  5. Tinw's Avatar
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    #5
    The map showed up on my Cassini app only recently, so I don't think you have to lose any geek points.

    I suspect some intern was commanded to collect a list of names at random, with separate categories for single peaks and ranges. Then the Cassini scientists can pluck names from the list as they discover new features. I hope they start naming the rivers and lakes after Middle-earth places as well, but some of those features may be transient.

    As for visiting -- someday! But right now we haven't entirely worked out the technology needed to land people on something as close as Mars: toting enough air, water, food, and shielding to protect from solar radiation is just barely beyond anything we've done to date, and as that recent Mars rover landig demonstrated, landing anything heavier than a golf cart is surprisingly difficult on a body with more gravity and more atmosphere than our moon. I also don't want to think what would happen if a spacecraft entering Titan's atmosphere hated up enough to cause the methane to start exploding on contact!

    Too bad it's not closer. A small planet with clouds, air and lakes made entirely of natural gas could be really handy, if only it didn't cost so much to go there and back again.

    geordie: do you mean that your text or the NASA map says "Morlock"? It's actually Merlock on the Titan map, just very fuzzy. I'm impressed that whichever lackey was assigned to compile a list of Tolkien names included The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and that obscure Rohirric name. I suspect they may have done a search of Encyclopedia of Arda's and the Tolkien Gateway's "mountains" catagories, but even those don't list Irensaga.

  6. Tinw's Avatar
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    #6
    The map showed up on my Cassini app only recently, so I don't think you have to lose any geek points.

    I suspect that once they settled on Middle-earth as a theme, some intern was commanded to compile a long list of names, with separate categories for single peaks and ranges. Then the Cassini scientists can pluck names at random from the list as they discover new features.* I hope they start naming the rivers and lakes after Middle-earth places as well, but some of those features may be transient.

    As for visiting -- someday! But right now we haven't entirely worked out the technology needed to land people on something as close as Mars: toting enough air, water, food, and shielding to protect from solar radiation is just barely beyond anything we've done to date, and as that recent Mars rover landig demonstrated, landing anything heavier than a golf cart is surprisingly difficult on a body with more gravity and more atmosphere than our moon. I also don't want to think what would happen if a spacecraft entering Titan's atmosphere hated up enough to cause the methane to start exploding on contact!

    Too bad it's not closer. A small planet with clouds, air and lakes made entirely of natural gas could be really handy, if only it didn't cost so much to go there and back again.

    geordie: do you mean that your text or the NASA map says "Morlock"? It's actually Merlock on the Titan map, just very fuzzy. I'm impressed that whichever lackey was assigned to compile a list of Tolkien names included The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and that obscure Rohirric name. I suspect they may have done a search of Encyclopedia of Arda's and the Tolkien Gateway's "mountains" catagories, but even those don't list Irensaga.


    *The naming convention for moons of Uranus was to use characters in The Tempest, starting with a wonderful moon named Miranda, and now that they've exhausted the cast list, astronomers are using other Shakespearean names.

  7. geordie's Avatar
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    #7
    Yes, sorry to confuse things. :-) As you say, it's 'Merlock' on the map, and also in the 1962 poem 'The Mewlips'. It's 'Morlock' only in Tolkien's earlier poem, published in 1937. I was just being a clever-clogs!

    :-)
    It's all in the books...

  8. Saranna's Avatar
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    #8
    Some time back there was a TV documentary about things named for Tolkien characters/places, only this was about newly-discovered tiny and specialised and even microscopic life-forms. Wish I could remember some of that - does anyone else recall it?
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  9. There's a rather long list of diverse things given Tolkienian names in Henry Gee's The Science of Middle-earth — various pre-historic animals (from the Tyrannosaurus Helcaraxae to Protoselene Bombadili), as well as a shark called Gollum and a wasp called Gwaihiria and on to the Lorien, Fangorn and Edoras banks and the Rohan and Gondor seamounts under the water by the Rockall Plateau in the Atlantic.

    Gee gives a link that is no longer available, but using the WaybackEngine at archive.org, I have found the new URL to where there is a list of creatures named for fictional characters here: http://www.curioustaxonomy.net/etym/fiction.html scroll down for a whole section for Tolkien, which includes the Sauron's Eye dinosaur, the Sauroniops.
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
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  10. Tinw's Avatar
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    #10
    Geordie: apologies, my grasp of humor has always been rather reminiscent of Mr. Data.

    Saranna, Troelsfo: excellent!

    Add to that the student housing of UCI, known collectively as Middle-earth (I never managed to photograph the ME golf cart while I lived nearby.) The Helm's Deep Fitness Center was particularly fortuitous.

    A complete list of the dorms:
    http://www.housing.uci.edu/me/hall_Desc.asp

  11. Ghostie's Avatar
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    #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Troelsfo View Post
    There's a rather long list of diverse things given Tolkienian names in Henry Gee's The Science of Middle-earth — various pre-historic animals (from the Tyrannosaurus helcaraxae to Protoselene bombadili), as well as a shark called Gollum and a wasp called Gwaihiria and on to the Lorien, Fangorn and Edoras banks and the Rohan and Gondor seamounts under the water by the Rockall Plateau in the Atlantic.
    Funny this subject should come up... I come across these names pretty regularly. Just this morning I came across about 20 records of Mithrandir gillianus from Wyoming. Sauroniops may be the first I've heard that's an actual dinosaur; most of the ones I see are mini-mammals.

    On a side note... I'm surprised T. helcaraxae made the list, when it was never seriously published--it's a fictitious name thought up by Henry Gee for a book he authored, and wasn't meant to be taken seriously. But judging from the questions floating around the 'net, a lot of people seem to have been fooled by that one.
    Last edited by Ghostie; 31/Dec/2012 at 08:17 PM.

  12. Nagalnait's Avatar
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    #12
    This is very interesting to find out. Cool.
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  13. Zelda333's Avatar
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    #13
    Wow that's so awesome!!! I just love things like this.

  14. William Brennan's Avatar
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    #14

    Post Methane

    Tinw-Methane does not combust unless in the presence of oxygen, which is not in Titan's atmosphere. The highly exothermic reaction is CH4+2O2-->2H2O+CO2. Hence, every planet with an atmosphere in our solar system has one or the other, but not both.

  15. fernshirehobbit's Avatar
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    #15
    ooo that is rather awesome! Makes it a much more desirable vacation spot now. I was always interested in the moons of Saturn...

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