Tag: NameExoWorlds

A Grand Global Competition to Name 100 ExoWorlds

Within the framework of its 100th anniversary commemorations, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is organising the IAU100 NameExoWorlds global competition that allows any country in the world to give a popular name to a selected exoplanet and its host star. Exoplanet rendering by IAU.

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 bulge of the Milky Way, as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Our galaxy is inferred to have hundreds of billions of stars, and even more planets. (NASA, ESA, and T. Brown (STScI);


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

(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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