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Astronomer Reconstructs Middle-Earth Solar System, Earns Place In Geek Hall Of Fame

Dr. Kristine Larsen is an astrophysicist from Central Connecticut State University, and she has decided to use her obviously giant brain for geek good and apply her knowledge to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. She has written over thirty papers and articles on the relationship between Tolkien and astronomy and has, over the years, given numerous talks on the subject at conventions and conferences.

One of her most impressive projects has been to recreate the astronomy of Tolkien’s fictional world, extrapolating from evidence in Tolkien’s various texts. That’s right. She figured out Middle-earth’s solar system.

According to Larsen’s paper on Middle-earth’s astronomy, “astronomical lore and knowledge played a significant role in the shaping of Middle-earth, both figuratively and literally” and “astronomy helped, and haunted, Tolkien as he set out to develop his universe.” Tolkien wrestled with creating a believable world in which his stories could take place, paying attention to every tiny detail from the stars to the phases of the moon. While he made occasional errors (requiring occasional massive rewrites), Middle-earth’s heavens are remarkably complete and the characters’ journeys coordinated around them nearly flawlessly. Larsen has used Tolkien’s writings to draw conclusions about how his fictional celestial bodies correspond to our real-life sky. After all, Tolkien wrote that Middle-earth was intended to be our familiar world in a time before recorded history.

Larsen’s work is more evidence of just how complicated and well-planned Tolkien’s universe is. Even 40 years after the author’s death, readers are still finding more to explore in the world that he created. From linguistics to religion to astronomy, there’s always something new to find, and you can count on fans to find it.

What I’m trying to say here is that J.R.R. Tolkien + A Lady Scientist + Fan Scholarship = Awesome.

(via: i09)

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  • Anonymous

    Has Colbert weighed in on this yet? Maybe he could get her on the show. Imagine the geekfest that would occur. It would be marvelous.

  • According2Robyn

    Awesome! Now let’s get her thinking about how A Song of Ice and Fire’s solar system works.

    Because, seriously, how the hell does it work?

  • jenni

    what Ashley said I’m impressed that any body can get paid $7571 in 4 weeks on the internet. look these up


  • Anonymous

    I seriously doubt Martin has even thought about it.

  • Canisa

    I think that there was someone a while ago who mentioned that Westeros’ planet could be on a highly eccentric orbit around a binary star system, but I’m not sure if that panned out or anything.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    The picture of the Solar System shown above with Tolkienian star names unfortunately displays some of the more sloppy aspects of fan scholarship, but Prof. Kristine Larsen, thankfully, rejects some of the more dubious identifications in the picture. Specifically she supports Christopher Tolkien’s rejection of the identifications of Luinil and Nénar with Uranus and Neptune respectively, and she also calls into doubt the identification of Lumbar with Saturn.

    J.R.R. Tolkien + a real scientist = truly awesome
    add fan scholarship and the result is ‘meh’!