Tag: IAU

The IAU on ExoNames

 

The IAU, in the person of Executive Committee member and former General Secretary Thierry Montmerle, wrote the following response to an earlier column, “(Mostly) Thumbs Down on ExoNames.”  The response to the article was first posted as a comment on the Many Worlds site, but to ensure that it is seen by readers I am posting the full email now:

 

We found it quite interesting, since, for once, it concerns the feedback from the astronomers’ community, which is certainly as important for us as the reactions from the public.

We do have a few comments to offer, that may supplement your already rich article.

They are listed below.

Many thanks for you interest in the IAU and in the “NameExoWorlds” contest !

1) The exoplanet community has been involved from the start. IAU Commission C53 set up a Working Group including, among others, Didier Queloz and Geoff Marcy. This Working Group made the recommendation for defining the initial list of 305 confirmed exoplanets for public naming. They also agreed that the names could be given by the public (not by the discoverers or scientists), with the aim of having various names representing different cultures all over the world. Given the results of the contest, it is obvious this goal has been successfully reached.

The discoverers of the named planets have also been contacted at the beginning of the process and most of them expressed that they were enthusiastic about it; they provided comments on their discovery, which were published from the start on the NameExoWorlds web page.

The Working Group also agreed that the public names would never supersede the scientific designations. This has been recalled many times at each step.

2) Astronomy clubs and associations were invited to engage into the contest by voting for the top “most popular” systems (i.e., most interesting in their opinion). As a result, we decided to select the top 20 for naming proposals by the public. The resulting list is remarkably diverse and reflects rather closely the wide range of the present-day “exoplanet science” (restricted to confirmed objects having been studied for many years, not to recent “frontier” objects like the Kepler exoplanet candidates)

3) All the names (including star names) were the subject of 275 argued proposals sent by over 600 registered clubs, then submitted to a public, worldwide vote, and over 500,000 were cast by voters from 180 countries. The contest also generated over 800 articles in 54 countries.… Read more

(Mostly) Thumbs Down on ExoNames

Infographic displaying a breakdown of the votes per person and country/region in the IAU NameExoWorlds vote to name alien worlds. As announced on December 15, publicly endorsed names for 31 exoplanets and 14 host stars were accepted and are to be officially sanctioned by the IAU.

Infographic displaying a breakdown of the votes per person and country/region in the IAU NameExoWorlds vote to name alien worlds. As announced on December 15, publicly endorsed names for 31 exoplanets and 14 host stars were accepted and are to be officially sanctioned by the IAU.

The name 51 Pegasi B, the first planet identified outside of our solar system, has been eclipsed.  Now it is Dimidium.

The (at least) five planet system orbiting the star formerly known as 55 Cancri now circles the star Copernicus.  And those planets 55 Cancri B, C, D, E, and F are Galileo, Brahe, Lippershey, Janssen and Harriot.

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.”

51 Pegasi b was discovered in October, 1995. This giant planet is about half the size of Jupiter and orbits its star in about four days. '51 Peg' helped launch a whole new field of exploration. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

51 Pegasi b was discovered in October, 1995 and has been known as such ever since. Voters around the world selected the name Dimidium for the exoplanet, referring to its mass of at least half the mass of Jupiter.   ( NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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

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