Thursday, October 22, 2009

FINALISTS for the official Hebrew names of the planets Uranus and Neptune have resonances with ancient Greek and Jewish mythology:
Some planets need Hebrew names, and you can help

By Ofri Ilani (Haaretz)

Tags: Israel News, Hebrew Language

For more than 1,000 years, when Hebrew speakers looked at the sky, they saw five planets - Hama (Mercury), Noga (Venus), Maadim (Mars), Tsedek (Jupiter) and Shabtai (Saturn). The five planets closest to earth all have ancient Hebrew names, some of them dating back to the time of the Talmud.

On the other hand, the two planets that are further away - Uranus and Neptune - were not known in ancient times, and are therefore referred to by these names in Hebrew, too. Now the Hebrew Language Academy is inviting the public to help choose Hebrew names for the solar system's farthest flung planets.


In the end, the jury chose the two names, "Oron" and "Shahak," for Uranus. The first was chosen because it sounds similar to Uranus, and means "little light" - a reference to the planet's pale light when viewed from Earth.

Since the god Uranus, in Greek mythology, represents the sky, the name "Shahak" was proposed because it comes from "shehakim," a synonym for "shamayim" (sky).

Neptune's candidates are "Rahav" and "Tarshish."

Since the foreign names were taken from Classical mythology, many of the participants suggested the planet be named after a god from Hebrew mythology. However, since Judaism is monotheistic, there are merely hints of early gods in the Bible. One is Rahav - a name that is associated with the sea, as is the Roman name Neptune.

The second proposed name, Tarshish, is the name of a stone worn by the High Priest on his breast-plate. The sages consider it a synonym for the sea, which is similar in color to Neptune.
What about Pluto? "Sheol," maybe?