The turf war between Ukraine and Russia has now made its way to outer space. Pale Blue Dot is a space research organization that, as a means of raising money, allows anybody to name a star for a $10 donation. On Monday, the organization announced that it won’t give a new title to a star that, thanks to a group of mischievous Ukrainian astronomers, bears the name “Putin is a Dickhead.”
They named the star in Ukrainian (“Putin-Huilo!”), and Travis Metcalfe, the organization’s founder, says he didn’t realize what it meant until the name started making the social media rounds. Nevertheless, he’s keeping it. Proclaiming that “free speech is now written in the stars,” Metcalfe said the Ukrainians’ interstellar insult is fair game, and that the name won’t be changing anytime soon.
“We have no plans to censor any of these star adoptions,” Metcalfe said. “We appreciate the support for science.”
The phrase “Putin huilo,” which can also be translated as “Putin is a dipshit,” became a popular slogan amongst Ukrainians after then-Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia used it to describe the Russian President at a protest outside of the Russian embassy in Kiev earlier this summer. It’s since become embedded in Ukrainian pop culture and has found its way onto t-shirts and into music videos.
It’s worth noting that these aren’t “official” star names; the actual, historical database of star names is in the hands of the International Astronomical Union. Pale Blue Dot launched this project in 2008, and it’s only one of many groups that allow people to “adopt a star.” However, as Metcalfe points out, most of those organizations do this on a for-profit basis, while Pale Blue Dot is using the money to fund space research. It’s working — in 2013, the organization discovered the smallest exoplanet yet.