The 14 Most Pornographic Astronomical Terms

The 14 Most Pornographic Astronomical Terms

In preparation for the Quiz-o-Tron 2000 at DragonCon this year, I was writing questions that would be of interest to my panelists. Because I had one astronomer (Phil Plait of course!) and eight immature funny people (everyone else plus Phil Plait), I decided to ask, “What’s the most pornographic-sounding astronomical term?” To seek out the answer, I of course started by Googling “pornographic astronomical terms.” The results were disappointing, so I also tried “filthy astronomical terms,” “dirty astronomy,” “sexy space things,” and many other phrases, all of which gave me pretty much nothing to go on.

So, I asked the Skepchicks (including our own resident astronomer, Dr. Nicole “Noisy” Gugliucci) to help me compile a list. And now, for the betterment of the Internet, I present it here in full:

  1. Accretion Disk
  2. Black Hole to Bulge Mass Relation
  3. Coronal Hole
  4. Double Asteroid
  5. Ejecta Blanket
  6. Greatest Elongation
  7. Galactic Bulge
  8. Globular Cluster
  9. Herbig-Haro Object
  10. Kirkwood Gaps
  11. Sea Floor Spreading
  12. Trojan Asteroid
  13. Virgo Cluster
  14. Waxing Crescent

Uranus was excluded for being too obvious.


Featured image by Marco Lorenzi

Avatar of Rebecca Watson
Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.


  1. Avatar of ineedavacation

    Uranus may be too obvious but what about the “Rings of Uranus” or is that too dirty?

  2. Avatar of apuc

    Coronal mass ejection, anyone ??

  3. Avatar of Robert McBean

    “Apparent Magnitude”

    Did you leave out Big Bang because it too obvious?

  4. Avatar of Infophile

    There’s my field of research: Tidal Stripping (or just “Stripping.”)

    Not to mention, a lot of astronomers have a perverse sense of humor. For instance, students are regularly taught how to use the program SExtractor (for Shape Extractor).

    • Avatar of Nicole

      Also, SuperMongo. Or at least its logo.

      • Avatar of Infophile

        Hah, thanks for pointing that out to me. I didn’t even know it had a logo till you mentioned that. Now that I’ve seen it (top of the page here, I think we might have a winner.

        Though to be fair, other scientists can probably get just as much use out of SM.

  5. Avatar of Steve D

    Open cluster,
    Superior conjunction,
    Retrograde motion,
    Stellar prominence

  6. Avatar of Dan Jensen

    milky way. heh. hehehehheheh …

  7. Avatar of Robert Westbrook


  8. Avatar of Colin Rosenthal

    Eruptive Prominence
    Umbral Flashes
    Stretch-Twist-Fold Dynamo

  9. Avatar of aclayman

    I believe the Chandrasekhar limit was mentioned in the Kama Sutra

  10. Avatar of Science Bulldog

    I can’t pass up a chance to mention “Lobate scarps” :)

  11. Avatar of thefemalearchetype

    Panspermia? The word has a 12 yr old giggle factor plus it is a theory of space debris colliding into thing and injecting them with life. It’s kind of sexy although not necessarily likely or probable.

  12. Avatar of SamBarge

    Um, moon?

    But, in the immortal words of the Frantics, all words are dirty words, if you say them right.

    • Avatar of Al Johnston

      Or as Tom Lehrer had it

      “When correctly viewed
      Everything is lewd…”

  13. Avatar of Nicole

    I love you all. These are great! Keep them coming *teehee*

  14. Avatar of etacar11

    Considering that the abbreviation for the constellation Sextans is “Sex,” the possibilities for paper/poster titles are endless. Like “69 Sex Explodes”… Ahem. Should I being saying this at work?

  15. Avatar of bjswift

    Um, “dry merger”…

  16. Avatar of scribe999

    I am mortally offended…and yet strangely intrigued…by this thread.

  17. Avatar of LymanAlpha

    My research is about when the central bulge’s mass is too small in comparison to the black hole. Thats when you get an ultra compact (sex) dwarf. Ok I just added e sex for the heck of it.

  18. Avatar of emmastaf

    A geological favorite: “subduction leads to orogeny”.

  19. Avatar of thePsoop

    I’ve always found the name of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft (failed Russian mission to Mars moon Phobos) to be amusing.

    Also, “Pulsar”.

  20. Avatar of David Inwood

    The Big Dipper

  21. Avatar of Yankee

    Don’t go to the seedy parts of the galaxy, or you might wind up with a Crab Nebula.

  22. Avatar of Bjornar

    I believe ejecta blanket will be the next big fetish porn trend.

  23. Avatar of andiis

    Pictures?!?!…or it didn’t happen!

  24. Avatar of paddy

    One of my astrophysics lecturers often referred to “the red end” (of the visible spectrum). Always made us giggle.

    Also, they’ve renamed Uranus. It’s new name, Urectum, is much less silly. (Futurama.)

  25. Avatar of Paul

    ahh first Pluto now Uranus. :-(

  26. Avatar of ragdish


    This could of course be interpreted many different ways. For all you know, I could be comparing dying stars to inflamed hemmorhoids.

  27. Avatar of IBY

    C’mon, no coronal mass ejection? I am disappointed in you guys.

  28. Avatar of Buzz Parsec

    1) Venerean.

    2) Orion’s Sword. (As if.)

    3) All of Jupiter’s moons.

  29. Avatar of fizzygoo

    Hot luminous bodies, aka stars.

  30. Avatar of sotonohito

    No love for “Orbital Insertion”?

    • Avatar of Jack99

      That opens up a whole new can of worms!


  31. Avatar of SteveT

    German Equitorial Mount

    - sounds like a really kinky sex position

  32. Avatar of dastronomer

    I always always giggle when talking about solar-mass Red Giant Branch stars. See, they go thru this phase when convection reaches deep into the star (into the core!), which stirs up all sorts of fusion products. This is known as ‘deepest penetration’.

    I think that wins.

    Also, having used German Equatorial Mounts – they are only attractive to masochistic ass-hats. Not my bag, but sometimes I wonder about the prof of my observing class…

  33. Avatar of aiabx

    Olympus Mons?
    And the Olympus Mons aureole?
    Annular eclipse?

  34. Avatar of aiabx

    Oh, and the German Equatorial Mount is so much more comfortable than the Fork Mount. Trust me.

  35. Avatar of kissogram

    Honestly, I loved Phil’s first guess (“Horsehead Nebula?”).

  36. Avatar of gregladen


    “An afterglow is a wide arc of glowing light that can sometimes be seen high in the western sky at twilight; it is caused by fine particles of dust scattering light in the upper atmosphere. 2. An afterglow (also called postluminescence) is lingering radiation that remains after an event like the big bang (whose afterglow is the cosmic microwave background radiation) or a gamma ray burst (which has an x-ray afterglow).”

  37. Avatar of gregladen

    - Albedo.

    Often confused with Libido

    - Antipodal Point

    People argue about whether there really is one and if so, exactly where it is.

    - Apparent Motion

    Use your imagination for this one

    - Baily’s beads

    “…(often spelled Bailey’s beads) are bead-like bursts of light that appear about 15 seconds before and after totality during a solar eclipse. Baily’s beads are caused by light shining through valleys on the edge of the moon. They were named for the British astronomer Francis Baily (1774-1844), one of the founders of the Royal Astronomical Society.”

    - Crap Nebula

    Not really a pornographic term but still important.

  38. Avatar of gregladen

    - Curiosity

    “…The Mars rover Curiosity is a remote-controlled robotic vehicle sent ”

    - Curvature of spacetime

    -Cygnus loop

    - Earth Grazer

    “An Earth grazer is a meteoroid (or other space debris) that enters the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrates, traveling nearly parallel to Earth’s surface. The meteor burns up slowly, putting on a beautiful display.”

    - Foucault Pendulum

    similar to tea bagging?

    - Gamma Ray Burst

    - Jewel Box

    “The Jewel Box – NGC 4755 (also known as Kappa Crucis) is an open cluster of about 100 stars in the Southern Cross (a constellation in the Southern Hemisphere). Located near Beta Crucis, it was discovered by Abbe Lacaille when he was in South Africa from 1751 to 1752. This very young cluster is estimated to be under 10 million years old and is about 7500 light-years away from us.”

    - Kuiper Belt

    - LaGrange Points

    - Libration

    ” … is a rocking movement of the Moon.”

  39. Avatar of Steve D

    Have we done “astronomical unit” yet?

  40. Avatar of Arie Nouwen

    Inflation? Exponential expansion during the Big Bang, you can’t get more.

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