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Examples of SF References in Professional Astronomy

Just to give an incomplete list of examples of science fiction and fantasy references in professional astronomy:

Star Trek

  • The Cardassian Expansion - "a model in which the universe is flat, matter-dominated and accelerating" which states explicitly that "The name Cardassian refers to a humanoid race in Star Trek whose goal is to take over the universe, i.e. accelerated expansion. This race looks foreign to us and yet is made entirely of matter." (Freese & Lewis, 2002)
  • BoRG – the Brightest of Reionization epoch Galaxies survey, named for the aliens in Star Trek.
  • Image viewing software ds9 (Full name SAOImage DS9, the successor to SAOImage and SAOImage TNG)

Star Wars

  • Tatooines - a Star Wars reference used to describe circumbinary planets, as in the TATOOINE (The Attempt To Observe Outer-planets In Non-single-stellar Environments) radial velocity survey programme (Konaki et al 2010). See also Walking on Exoplanets: Is Star Wars Right?
  • ACBAR – the Arcminute Cosmology Bolometer Array Receiver. In reference to the Star Wars character. It’s a trap! (A photon trap)
  • Darth Fader - a code for wavelet analysis of low signal to noise spectra of galaxies.
  • The catchphrase "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" is frequently used e.g. as a paper title when discussing galaxies in the distant Universe or in press releases.


  • MINBAR - the Multi-INstrument Burst ARchive, a repository for data on stellar explosions, named after a race from Babylon 5 (Galloway et al 2020, Galloway priv. comm.)
  • Earendel (a distant, highly lensed star) - technically a fantasy (rather than SF) reference to Tolkein's Lord of the Rings (e.g. LotR is also referenced by FRODOspec, SMAUG, GANDALF, BALROG, another BALROG, the work of Kristine Larsen and others.
  • HOGWARTs web tool for studying galaxies in a gravitational wave transient localisation area.
  • The NASA design study for a proposed space telescope (The Habitable Exoplanet Observatory, HabEx) notes that of their nine primary targets, five systems have a pop-culture, science fiction resonance - not because this influences their selection, but because this is relevant to the degree of popular support for and public engagement with an expensive scientific survey telescope.
  • BATMAN, SPIDERMAN and TERMINATOR Exoplanet lightcurve fitting codes.
  • The TARDIS supernova modelling code - rapid spectral modelling, open source software in which the origin of the name in Doctor Who is never explicitly stated (Kerzendorf & Sim 2014).
  • NASA's XCOM communications technology demonstration satellite used a logo (left) closely based on that of the classic X-COM alien invasion video game (right). XCOM mission logo XCOM game logo

Further suggestions for inclusion are always welcome. Last update: November 2022