The country was one of the 116 allowed to name new planets and stars in honour of the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the body responsible for naming newly discovered stars and planets.
The planet Surt orbits the dwarf star Muspelheim. Photo: DTU Space
“When I was just rereading some Nordic mythology, it struck me that these would be really good names for the star and the planet,” Lars A. Buchhave, a professor at DTU Space, told the Politiken newspaper.
Buchhave was the sponsor of the name 'Surt' and one of the people sitting on the competition committee.
“Denmark's planet, which will from today be called Surt, is extremely hot, because it orbits so close to its star, which is now called Muspelheim. So it lives up to the story that Muspelheim was a hellish place outside which Surt stood guard.”
Buchhave was also the astronomer who discovered the planet, which is 1,050 light years away from earth. Back in 2011 he observed that the light from Muspelheim dimmed slightly every six days.
Surt, or Surtr, from the Old Norse for 'black' in reference to his charred appearance, is the fire giant who, according to Norse mythology, will lead the giants into battle during Ragnarok, the end of the world.
He arrives from Muspelheim, the southern region of heat and fire, and then lays waste to the cosmos with a burning sword before it sinks beneath the sea.
The Giant with the Flaming Sword (1909) by John Charles Dollman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“The IAU100 NameExoWorlds campaign provided the public with the exciting opportunity to help with the naming of over 100 new worlds and their stars, and to help the IAU establish a thoughtful naming theme for naming future discoveries in those systems, NameExoWorlds Project Manager, Eduardo Monfardini Penteado said in a press release announcing the new names.
In 2019, 112 countries organised national campaigns that stimulated the direct participation of over 780,000 people worldwide. Over 2000 Danes voted for one or more of the 860 name proposals, in a competition organised by Aarhus University.