Ukraine Astronomers Send Putin a Cosmic Message

The entire universe in blog form
July 5 2014 7:30 AM

Putin Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

I may be known for standing up in public and telling people Don’t Be a Dick … but sometimes you have to tell people when they’re being one.

As you can imagine, folks in Ukraine aren’t terribly happy with Russia, especially in the form of its President, Vladimir Putin. I would think having part of your country invaded by Russia and then seeing a suspiciously high (96 percent or more affirmative) voter referendum to join the Russian Federation would make anyone a little sore.


So some Ukrainian activists decided to exact a small bit of revenge. They adopted a star, listing their name as “Putin-Huilo”.

Putin Huilo
The First Annual Vladimir Putin Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence

Photo from the EuroMaydan Facebook page

Why is this funny? Because the name means, um, well, something not terribly flattering toward Putin. I found a few explanations that should draw you a fairly clear picture.  

I have to admit chuckling over this. I’m no fan of Putin, who seems to pine for the good ol’ days of the USSR. And if I have to choose between him and a group of plucky thumbs-to-their-noses astronomy enthusiasts … well.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

The star they adopted was through the Pale Blue Dot project, run by the White Dwarf Research Corp. This is a nonprofit made up of professional astronomers raising money to do real research in asteroseismology and cosmochronometry, fields that deal with the properties of stars. Their work is solid, and they already funded some research that led to the discovery of the smallest known exoplanet in 2013. If you want, you can adopt a star as well and help support real, important research.

Incidentally, I checked with Travis Metcalfe from White Dwarf, and he confirms the story is legit. The star isn't actually named "Putin-Huilo" of course; this is just a fun and unofficial way for the group to raise funding. I’ll note this is different than some less-then-stellar companies that claim to “sell” stars, which are at best deceptive. Donations to White Dwarf go toward the astronomers so they can continue their research.

Out of curiosity I poked around to find the star. Using the Goddard Space Flight Center SkyView page, I made a nice picture of it:

The star adopted is at the center of this picture; it's too faint to see without a telescope.

Photo by Digitized Sky Survey/SkyView

It’s faint, about magnitude 11.5, so you’d need a decent telescope to see it. The colors here aren’t true; I set them such that infrared light looks red, red light looks green, and blue light looks blue. Given its measured colors, it looks to be similar to the Sun, which is rather interesting. I had to chuckle—compared to the Sun, it’s actually a bit redder. That seems fitting.

As for the Ukrainian astronomers, I wish them the best. I think their star is safe. I’m not sure how far away it is, but if it is like the Sun, it’s about 700 light years distant. That’s too far even for Putin to annex.

Tip o’ the babushka to the fantabulous Iszi Lawrence.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059


Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

So, Apple Is Not Shuttering Beats, but the Streaming Service Will Probably Be Folded Into iTunes

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
Sept. 22 2014 4:06 PM No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 5:45 PM The University of California Corrects “Injustice” by Making Its Rich Chancellors Even Richer
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.