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Huygens Pronounced Huygens

Today the Huygens probe touched down successfully on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. I don't know how I missed the news, but I think this was the first I heard of the Cassini/Huygens mission, but then I can't keep up with all the interplanetary probes (especially them Yurpeen ones). This is an exciting mission, and I am as piqued as I was almost two years ago when I heard that NASA had finally lost contact after 30 years with Pioneer 10. (*sniff* God speed, little wanderer!)

I wanted to share my enthusiasm with my friends at lunch, but stopped short when I realized I didn't know how to pronounce Huygens. “How about that Titan thing,” I began lamely and finally admitted why I was avoiding the word Huygens. I felt better when no one at the table could pronounce it either.

I listened to how it was pronounced on NPR. The most common was HOY-gens, although one person said HIGH-gens. Then I Googled the pronunciation and found an mp3 with the name pronounced by five native Dutch speakers. That didn't help much, because I could never imitate the Dutch accent, and to my ear, each one pronounced it differently. The real sound is neither HOY-gens nor HIGH-gens, but to my ear HIGH-gens sounds closer, not that it's close.

While reading about Cassini, I read about NASA's comet-smashing probe, Deep Impact. I think this is going too far. Soft landings on other worlds is one thing, but this is weird science: smashing a comet just to see what happens. That is just rude. For all we know, the impact will change the comet's trajectory to one that will send it smashing into earth.

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