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Where the comet lander got its name? (And how to say it.) ...


Lookups spiked on November 12, 2014.


The European Space Agency succeeded in landing part of a spacecraft on the surface of a speeding comet ten years after the probe was launched from Earth. The mission is called Rosetta and the lander is named Philae - two names that share a history in linguistic exploration.

Rosetta is named for the Rosetta Stone, the inscribed slab that provided the key to reading Egyptian hieroglyphs. Philae is named for a former island in the Nile River where an obelisk was discovered that was covered in hieroglyphic writing that helped to demonstrate the valuable clues of the Rosetta Stone. Just as the Rosetta Stone unlocked a mystery of language, scientists hope that Philae will reveal much that is unknown about the surface of a comet.

News coverage of the landing offered varying pronunciations of Philae. Although the word is traditionally pronounced \FYE-lee\ in English, some broadcasters used the German pronunciation \FEE-lay.

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