Four years ago, the International Astronomical Union organized a competition to give popular names to 14 stars and 31 exoplanets that orbit them. The event encouraged 570,000 people to vote and the iconic planet 51 Pegasi b became “Dimidium, ” 55 Cancri b became “Galileo,” and (among others) Formalhaut b became “Dagon.”
It remains unclear how often those popular names are used in either scientific papers or writing about the papers. But the idea of giving mythical names, names that describe something unique about the planet (or star) or that nod to famous astronomer or iconic writers has caught on and the IAU has a new naming contest up and running.
This one is the IAU NameExoWorlds global campaign, and almost 100 nations have signed up to organize public national campaigns that will give new names to a selected exoplanet and its host star.
“This exciting event invites everyone worldwide to think about their collective place in the universe, while stimulating creativity and global citizenship,” shared Debra Elmegreen, IAU President Elect. “The NameExoWorlds initiative reminds us that we are all together under one sky.”
From a large sample of well-studied, confirmed exoplanets and their host stars, the IAU NameExoWorlds Steering Committee assigned a star-planet system to each country, taking into account associations with the country and the visibility of the host star from most of the country.
The national campaigns will be carried out from June to November 2019 and, after final validation by that NameExoWorlds Steering Committee, the global results will be announced in December 2019. The winning names will be used freely in parallel with the existing technical scientific names.
The naming contest flows from the well-established fact that exoplanets are everywhere — at least one around most stars, scientists have concluded. Some 4,500 exoplanets have been identified so far, but this is but the beginning. Astronomers are confident there are hundreds of billions of exoplanets — ranging from small and rocky like Earth to massive gas giants much larger than Jupiter — in our galaxy reaches into the many billions.… Read more