NASA’s Earth Science division Earth System Pathfinder Program (ESSPP) announced its second award to be named the CYGNSS program to the University of Michigan, under the direction of Dr. Chris Ruf. The five year program and $150 million dollar satellite will track changes on the earth’s surface as a way of improving climate science by measuring temperature and wind on the oceans’ surface. CYGNSS stands for Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, but this is not your average acronomym. Acronyms are words formed by taking the initial letter or letters of a grouping of words to form an new word (also called initialisms), but in this case the acronym has an historical precedent.
The Latin word cygnus means swan-known today as a constellation of the same name. While acronyms are often formed by rearranging (and occasionally shoe-horning) constituent words to form a pleasing or memorable English word, this team managed to form an acronym that is easy to read in English (despite the lack of a vowel) and references a common and known Latin word. Well done, Dr. Ruf and University of Michigan team!
Image courtesy NASA ESSPP.