September 24, 2023

“Abyss”, “Crush”, “Haunting” and “Chasm” appeared frequently. So also (less grimly) “Hawking” after the man who did so much to understand them, as well as “Riddles”, “Mystery”, “Mass” and “Binge”. Other favorites: a “scream” of black holes, a “oblivion” and a “mosh pit”.

Some readers, playing on the idea of ​​a plurality of holes, suggested a “colander”, a “doily”, a “point” and a “warren”. One who relies on Dr. Holley-Bockelmann’s giggle reacted, nominated “Loon”.

Another suggested Argus Panoptes, an ancient giant in Greek mythology whose body was covered with eyes. A third intervened in Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series to suggest a “thinness”, a weak point in reality where the stuff between the worlds has become thin.

Politics was inevitably on the minds of many. A suggestion to label a group of black holes “trumps” was recommended by 125 other readers. “Congress” received several votes. (Presumably, cooler minds will prevail among astronomers who rely on federal funding to build their telescopes and do research.)

For what it’s worth, there’s nothing official going on here. There will also be no prize for finding the winning name.

Raisa Stebbins, the 32-year-old daughter of one of the LISA scientists, Tuck Stebbins, first addressed the etymological problem, said Dr. Holley-Bockelmann. “It was Raisa’s question that made our very serious meeting about LISA a fun distraction,” she said. Hundreds of ideas came from friends and the internet.

A total of two dozen astronomers took part in the process, said Dr. Holley-Bockelmann. After much lively discussions reduced the list to 16 strong competitors, astronomers voted on it using a proportional voting algorithm, RankIt.