The sky is filled with countless stars, more often than not circled by their own alien planets – and now you have the chance to name one of them, Space is reporting.
Each newly discovered exoplanet is typically given a scientific name, one inspired by the name of its star and usually made up of a few letters and a string of numbers. For instance, the extrasolar planet orbiting the HD 8574 dwarf star, located 146 light-years from Earth, has been dubbed HD 8574 b by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) – the society of astronomers responsible for assigning names to celestial bodies.
While such official designations are more or less unimaginative, to put it mildly, a few lucky exoplanets will soon stand to receive brand-new names that will be recognized and used in parallel with their scientific denominations. This is because, in celebration of its 100 years of existence, the International Astronomical Union has just launched the IAU100 NameExoWorlds project – a global campaign designed to give a number of exoplanets more memorable monikers.
The good news is that every country on the planet is invited to get involved and come up with a more creative name for one specifically designated alien planet and its parent star.
“This is only the second time in history that a campaign will lead to the naming of stars and exoplanets,” the IAU announced in a news release issued on Thursday – making a reference to its 2015 NameExoWorlds campaign, which led to the naming of 14 stars and the 31 alien planets orbiting them.
According to the IAU, the campaign will run from June until November and will be carried out at a national level by each and every country interested in taking part in the project. So far, almost 100 countries have signed up to organize national campaigns and get the public engaged in putting ideas forward and voting for the exoplanet names they like best.
The list of countries already participating in the NameExoWorlds project is available on the IAU campaign website. Each of these countries has been assigned a nearby star, one orbited by an alien world and which is close and bright enough to be visible from that country in the night sky, at least through a small telescope. The participating countries will be contributing their proposals to name their designated stars and exoplanets, as chosen by popular vote.
For example, the U.S. has been assigned the yellow dwarf star HD 17156 in the Cassiopeia constellation, along with its exoplanet, HD 7156 b, notes CNET. At the same time, the U.K. gets to name the WASP-13 star in the Lynx constellation and its planetary companion, WASP-13 b. Meanwhile, Australia will need to come up with a suitable name for the yellow-white dwarf HD 38283 in the Mensa constellation and its accompanying exoplanet, HD 38283 b.
“This exciting event invites everyone worldwide to think about their collective place in the universe, while stimulating creativity and global citizenship,” IAU president-elect Debra Elmegreen said in a statement.
“The NameExoWorlds initiative reminds us that we are all together under one sky.”
To submit your own proposal, simply look up your country on the campaign’s website and contact your national campaign committee at the provided e-mail address to make your entry in the contest. Note that each submission should follow the IAU naming rules, as detailed on the website.
“The proposed names should be of things, people, or places of long-standing cultural, historical, or geographical significance, worthy of being assigned to a celestial object.”
If your country is not yet listed among the organizers but you wish to put together a national campaign to make your ideas heard, you can contact the IAU and fill in the required form to express your interest in setting up a national committee. The deadline expires on July 30.
Pending approval by the IAU, the winning names will be made public in December.