Naming Exoplanets

Naming a star is a cool gift for some. Perhaps you “bought” a star for your kid or even to impress a girlfriend. But there are billions of stars in the galaxy and once you receive the certificate in the mail, are you really going to see your star again?

ArsTechnica is reporting that now some people will have the opportunity to name exoplanets. Astronomy clubs and other science related non-profits will get a chance to name between 20-30 exoplanets from a list of 305 chosen by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the organization in charge of such things.

This whole idea began about a year ago when a commercial company was giving people the option to name exoplanets. Those names were in no way official though. That company was trying to fill the void left by the more mundane astronomical naming system of exoplanets which had been named such glorious things as GRB 130606A.

While the IAU condemned the site that was doing this, they realized that people may actually have some interest in naming planets so they formed a committee. The Public Naming of Planets and Planetary Satellites Working Group has finally hashed out the rules for naming exoplanets.

In short, astronomy clubs, and other non profits can pick names. They have to be less than 16 characters and for the most part, pronounceable by most countries. They also can’t be commercial names and it’s discouraged to name them after people or pets.  You also can’t use names that have political, religious or military connotations. Organizations participating in the naming system can’t charge anyone for naming.

With all those rules in mind, organizations will submit their naming ideas to the committee and then next year they will crowdsource the actual names based on a public vote at large. The voting will take place at nameexoworlds.com.