These are some of the 31 newly-named exoplanets and 14 newly-named stars, the result of an international naming competition organized by the International Astronomical Union and made public and formal last month.
More than half a million people voted in the naming sweepstakes, and that no doubt brought a lot of attention and interest into the world of exoplanet research. Organizers of the effort have explained their effort this way: “Given the publicity and emotional investment associated with these discoveries, worldwide recognition is important and the IAU offers its unique experience for the benefit of a successful public naming process.”
But a so far anecdotal survey of exoplanet scientists suggests that it will be a long time — if ever — before they use those IAU selected names.
For instance, Didier Queloz, who was part of the Swiss team that actually made that first discovery of 51 Peg b, is not at all impressed.
“‘Naming a planet” is mostly PR solely triggered by the (IAU) executive committee to engage with the public,” said Queloz, now of the Astrophysics Group of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, U.K. “Given the context of the exercise I think it is unlikely the community of professional will use any of these names. It is worth to keep in mind formally the concept of exoplanet is undefined by the IAU and the agreement on exoplanet definition is, I guess, a prerequisite to any formal naming scheme.”
While a name like HD 149026 b (now Smertrios) might be a turnoff to the public, it has been the name of a very important exoplanet since its discovery in 2005, and there is a deep scientific technical and even emotional connection to the old.… Read more