Want to name a planet? Now’s your chance

11 Jul 2014

Move over, Gliese 832c and Kepler-62e, 305 exoplanets are to receive new names, thanks to a contest by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) that will crowdsource common names for those planets that lie outside our solar system.

The IAU is the scientific organisation that gives celestial objects their official scientific names and it also approves their official common names, which can arise from votes or suggestions from the public.

The exoplanets featured in the IAU’s NameExoWorlds contest have all been discovered before 31 December, 2008. Scientists have studied them to the extent of knowing their mass and orbit, and that they circle 260 stars in systems that house up to five planets each. Many of these host stars also need names and they will also be included in the contest.

The IAU is holding the contest in partnership with Zooniverse, a website that features astronomy projects and caters to astronomy clubs and non-profit organisations worldwide.

The NameExoWorlds contest isn’t open just yet, but individuals may sign up on its website to be notified when ‘we’re ready for you’. Astronomy organisations are being asked to ‘stay tuned’.

The website states that groups will be able to submit their proposed names in December, and the public will be able to vote on the names in March 2015. The winning names will be announced in August 2015 at a ceremony in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The new common names for the exoplanets will not replace their official scientific names, but will be officially recognised as alternatives.

Planets image via Shutterstock

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic