By SHARI LIEBLER
The Israeli public, tasked with naming the last two unnamed planets in the solar system - Uranus and Neptune - have risen to the celestial occasion.
At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Wednesday, Uranus (associated with enlightenment) was branded Oron - which ironically means "small light." Neptune (the planet cosmically connected to Pisces) was coined Rahav, meaning "ruler of the seas."
Out of over 100 options, only four names were selected for final consideration by astronomers together with representatives of the Hebrew Language Academy.
Harel Ben Ami, among those responsible for the project, said this selection process was by no means easy and that it took the committee hours to decide from the names nominated.
Some 1,000 people then participated in the online vote to decide which two names, of the four, would be chosen.
Although the public chose Oron and Rahav, Uranus could have also been called Shahak, a name for the skies. So too, Neptune could have been called Tarshish which is identified with sea-going vessels in Jewish literature.
As the planets already have Greek mythological names, Israel will have now completed its mission in finishing the job of our ancestors who named the other planets. The six planets closest to the sun have Hebrew appellations: Mercury is known as Hama; Venus is Noga; Earth is Eretz; Mars, Ma'adim; Jupiter, Tzedek; and Saturn is Shabtai.
The remaining two planets, which were discovered only later, have been referred to by their Greek titles until now.
Ben Ami said he had felt it was time "to give basic names to the stars not seen by our forefathers." After his friend Lev Tal Or agreed that it was "a good idea," Ben Ami said he "started moving the wheels of this huge wagon."
The naming was attended by Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University as well as Prof. Moshe Ben Asher, president of the Hebrew Language Academy. With other esteemed guests present, the event concluded with a viewing of the planets through the telescope of the legendary Albert Einstein. The university maintains the Albert Einstein Archives.
After the final stars were named, Ben Ami said, "We succeeded and it's amazing."
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