Saturday, August 8, 2009

Europe versus Europa

Europe is the name of a continent or, depending on your definition of the term continent, the name of a subcontinent of Eurasia.
Europa is the name of one of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter. The moon name Europa goes back to a suggestion made by German astronomer Johannes Kepler [1].
In Greek mythology, Europa is the name of Agenor's daughter, who was beloved by Zeus, king of the gods. In Roman mythology, his name is Jove or Jupiter. The latter name was given to the planet. One of his satellites was later named Europa, after other suggested names, based on potential Medici and Brandenburgian patrons of astronomy, were rejected.

Jupiter moons, planetary geology, solar system, astrobiology, mythology

Note on corresponding adjectives
The adjective
European (as in European Space Agency, ESA) is used to refer to Europe. I haven't seen the adjective Europan (looks more like a misspelling of European) in use. Maybe Europar, like lunar, is a better choice? The most common form is Europa's (as in Europa's icy surface).

Note on grammatical gender
German language uses the name Europa for the moon, the continent, and the seductive goddess ruling behind all of it. The noun Europa is taken in the gender-neutral form (das Europa) for the continent and in the masculine gender (der Europa) for the moon (der Mond in German for the moon). The name of Jupiter's moon is derived from the Greek goddess Europa, for which the feminine gender applies: die griechische Göttin Europa.

[1] Andrew Lawler: Is This the Best Place to Find Life in the Solar System? • NASA is gambling $4 billion that something is stirring beneath the ice of Jupiter's bizarre moon Europa. Discover Magazine September 2009, pp. 42-47.

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