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

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at 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+.

Previous post

Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: Jonathon Figdor

Next post

AI: Skepticism and Bed Bugs


  1. September 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm —

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

  2. September 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm —

    Coronal mass ejection, anyone ??

  3. September 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm —

    “Apparent Magnitude”

    Did you leave out Big Bang because it too obvious?

  4. September 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm —

    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).

    • September 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm —

      Also, SuperMongo. Or at least its logo.

      • September 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm —

        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. September 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm —

    Open cluster,
    Superior conjunction,
    Retrograde motion,
    Stellar prominence

  6. September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm —

    milky way. heh. hehehehheheh …

  7. September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm —


  8. September 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm —

    Eruptive Prominence
    Umbral Flashes
    Stretch-Twist-Fold Dynamo

  9. September 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm —

    I believe the Chandrasekhar limit was mentioned in the Kama Sutra

  10. September 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm —

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

  11. September 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm —

    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. September 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm —

    Um, moon?

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

    • September 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm —

      Or as Tom Lehrer had it

      “When correctly viewed
      Everything is lewd…”

  13. September 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm —

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

  14. September 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm —

    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. September 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm —

    Um, “dry merger”…

  16. September 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm —

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

  17. September 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm —

    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. September 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm —

    A geological favorite: “subduction leads to orogeny”.

  19. September 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm —

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

    Also, “Pulsar”.

  20. September 15, 2012 at 12:29 am —

    The Big Dipper

  21. September 15, 2012 at 5:26 am —

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

  22. September 15, 2012 at 7:27 am —

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

  23. September 15, 2012 at 7:31 am —

    Pictures?!?!…or it didn’t happen!

  24. September 15, 2012 at 7:56 am —

    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. September 15, 2012 at 8:25 am —

    ahh first Pluto now Uranus. :-(

  26. September 16, 2012 at 12:18 am —


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

  27. September 16, 2012 at 1:21 am —

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

  28. September 16, 2012 at 1:54 am —

    1) Venerean.

    2) Orion’s Sword. (As if.)

    3) All of Jupiter’s moons.

  29. September 16, 2012 at 4:22 am —

    Hot luminous bodies, aka stars.

  30. September 16, 2012 at 8:08 am —

    No love for “Orbital Insertion”?

    • September 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm —

      That opens up a whole new can of worms!


  31. September 17, 2012 at 12:39 am —

    German Equitorial Mount

    – sounds like a really kinky sex position

  32. September 17, 2012 at 9:44 am —

    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. September 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm —

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

  34. September 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm —

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

  35. September 18, 2012 at 10:48 am —

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

  36. September 18, 2012 at 11:11 am —


    “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. September 18, 2012 at 11:16 am —

    – 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. September 18, 2012 at 11:24 am —

    – 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. September 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm —

    Have we done “astronomical unit” yet?

  40. September 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm —

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

Leave a reply