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Gizmodo.com's Astronomers Spot Unprecedented Flashes From Our Galaxy's Black Hole mentions Sgr A*'s companion gas cloud G2 and that Wikipedia article uses the term perinigricon, but that mentions peribothron as a synonym.

So which term for an object's orbit's closest approach to a black hole is most frequently used; perinigricon or peribothron? And what are the origins of these competing terms?

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I don't work with black holes, but I've been in the field of astrophysics for several years now, and until I read this question, I had never heard of either the two terms.

But a query on NASA/ADS, the primary database for "professional" astronomical papers (both refereed and non-refereed) yields 54 hits for "peribothron" vs. only 10 hits for "perinigricon". Not a lot.

As your links reveal, the etymological origin of peribothron/-nigricon is "near the black hole" in Greek and Latin, respectively. The reason has been to conform with terms such as perihelion, meaning "near the Sun". The first to use the Greek version in the literature was Frank & Rees (1976) who write in a footnote:

$^\star$We are grateful to W. R. Stoeger for suggesting this word, derived from the Greek bothros, a pit.

William Stoeger was the second author Martin Rees' student (and Stephen Hawking's classmate).

The first to use the Latin version seems to have been Schödel et al. (2002), but they don't offer any explanation for the term.

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  • $\begingroup$ These don't fall under the same category as terms discussed in What's the origin and culture of funny astronomical terminology? but I wonder if the the opportunity to name something was so enticing that neither one could help themselves from coining a new term when the opportunity presented itself. Thanks for the answer! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 13 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh You're welcome, was a fun one to dig into :) $\endgroup$ – pela Aug 13 at 9:14

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