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Astronomers Invite the Public to Help Name Exoplanets and Their Stars

  Artist’s impression of a distant exoplanet – planet beyond our solar system – orbiting its star. Via the IAU.

 

Artist’s impression of a distant exoplanet – planet beyond our solar system – orbiting its star. Via the IAU.

 

Since early in the 20th century, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has taken it upon itself to be the official source of names for space objects. In response to public interest, the IAU has now organized a worldwide contest to give popular names to selected exoplanets – planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system – along with their host stars. The IAU is inviting astronomy clubs and non-profit organizations to submit the proposed names. Votes will be cast by the public from across the world through the web platform NameExoWorlds. This platform is under development by the IAU in association with Zooniverse. The intention is that millions of people worldwide will be able to take part in the vote. Once the votes are counted, the winning names will be officially sanctioned by the IAU, allowing them to be used freely in parallel with the existing scientific nomenclature, with due credit to the clubs or organizations that proposed them.

The IAU further said that the naming process will take place on the NameExoWorlds website. They are asking for volunteers to translate the content into different languages in order to offer everyone the opportunity to take part in the contest (volunteer translators may email cjl@astro.ox.ac.uk).

The winning names will not replace the scientific designations, which already exist for all exoplanets and their host stars, but they will be sanctioned by the IAU as their adopted names, and be publicized as such, along with due credit to the astronomy clubs or organizations that proposed them. These public names may then be used freely worldwide, along with, or instead of, the original scientific designation. It is expected that the winning names for the 20-30 systems will reflect the diversity of cultures on all continents.

Read the full story on the EarthSky website. 

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