Solar / planetary systems, etc. Am I being pedantic?

Ok, just call me quirky. Whenever someone talks about “other solar systems”, it grates on me.

My logic: even though we call our star “the sun”, sun is just a generic name for any star. The “real” individual name of our star is “Sol”. So we live in the solar system.

Planetary systems circling other stars cannot be a “solar system”, because there is only one “Sol”, and we’ve got it. Other stars with planets should be called something else, like planetary systems.

Ok, so am I hopelessly quirky, compulsive, and pedantic (or maybe just wrong), or do you think there might be hope for me someday. :smiley:

Does this bother anyone else?


It’s as pedantic as me being annoyed every time someone says “I’m on my menstrual cycle.”

As long as you don’t correct people, you’re fine.

Well, if you want to be pedantic, “planetary system” doesn’t necessarily require the presence of a star, just planets. If you say “solar system,” even pedants will have to admit that the common usage would imply a star and a bunch of planets.

When did “Sol” become the name of our star, anyway? I hate it. The name of the sun is the sun.

At some point during the Roman Empire, I believe.

From NASA:

Personally, I like the term ‘star system’ because it encompasses the concept of multiple stars as well as planetary objects.

The use of the word ‘Sol’ to designate our local star is from the Norse Eddas, I think.
That would be sometime about the 13th century CE. The word ‘Sunna’ or ‘Sun’ dates from Old High German of the 10th century CE. So, if you want to be old-school about it, yes, the name of our star is ‘Sun’ not ‘Sol’. But, then what would we call our star system? The Sunar system? The Sun system? Solar just works better. Mayhaps that is because I grew up with it.

I mean in English, you pedant. :stuck_out_tongue:

In ST: TOS “The Changeling,” S02 E38, Kirk specifically identifies Earth as “the third planet orbiting the star we call ‘Sol.’”

The “solar system” name is borrowed directly from the same languages where the Sun is called sol, and in which the noun can also refer to other stars (that is, it is both a proper noun and a generic one). You don’t like it, complain to the part of English which enjoys going through other languages’ pockets, but being too picky could do a number on your vocabulary.

How do you feel about the phrase “the geology of Mars”? Using your principle, should the term geology only apply to Earth?

[Grand Moff Tarkin]Name the System![/Grand Moff Tarkin]

I hadn’t thought about that. Damn you! :slight_smile: Now I’ve got something else that bugs me.

Seriously, that’s not one of my quirks. I guess you could make a case that “geo” refers only to earth, but in my mind, that’s a further stretch than the Sol / Solar use.

To everyone: also remember that this is MPSIMS, and my OP was written a little bit seriously, but mostly lightly and casually, with a small dose humor (at which I’m sure I failed). :slight_smile:


This is absolutely not MPSIMS. For a pedant, what a mistake.

It’s needlessly pedantic. “Sol” = “sun” = “star with planets”, as far as I’m concerned.

Although you could maybe make a case for saving “Solar system” for us and using “Helial system” or somesuch for other similar star systems.

I have heard the words ‘areology’ and ‘selenology’ used by pedants to describe the ‘geological’ study of Mars and, ahem, Luna.

If you don’t like ‘other solar systems’, just use ‘other stellar systems’. Unlike ‘planetary systems’ it puts the attention where it belongs!

(Who was it who said ‘the Solar system consists of the Sun, Jupiter and assorted debris’?)

And it’s never been conquered since.

Admit it - you’re the guy that wrote this letter (fourth from the top), aren’t you?

So we could simply use “Solar” (adjective derived from the proper noun Sol) for this particular planetary system, and “solar” (small-s generic adjective) for any planetary system in general.

Star Trek always referred to planets by the name of the star followed by the number of the planet, e.g. “Rigel 7” or “Rigel VII”

I always assumed this was a standard way to name planets that astronomers use. Is that true?

Scroll down to “Exoplanet nomenclature”: