Names for Exoplanets

As I’d mentioned earlier, many exoplanets currently have names like Kepler-7b, HD 189733b, GJ 1214b, Gliese 581g, Kapteyn b, Gliese 667 Cc, … Why not names like Wu Tang Clan or Ghostface or Alderaan or Gallifrey? In 2014, the International Astronomical Union decided to change that by having a contest to name some exoplanets.

The IAU first came up with a list of 305 well-studied exoplanets that had been discovered before the end of 2008, exoplanets that are members of 250 exoplanetary systems. Several astronomy clubs and other such organizations then applied to the IAU to become registered voters in this contest. The accepted ones then selected 20 exoplanetary systems to vote on, and they then submitted sets of names for them. In 2015, the IAU had a public vote on which name set, and then announced the winners. The Approved Names, The Process, The ExoWorlds, The Proposals, and The Statistics.

I don’t know how well this contest turned out, or whether the IAU is willing to have another one. But if the IAU ever does, then there are now a lot more planets to choose from, like the Kepler ones and TRAPPIST-1.

Some names and details below the fold.

The IAU had several criteria for names, which I will summarize here.

  • Should not too awkward: they should be at most 16 characters long, preferably one word, and pronounceable.
  • Should not be offensive
  • Not too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object
  • No commercial names or trademarked names or similar
  • Nobody or nothing mainly known for political, military, or religious activities. Presumably to avoid taking sides on such issues
  • No names of living people or pets

Of the approved names, these are my favorite ones:

Planetarium Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy Europe

Star PSR 1257+12 Lich Lich is a fictional undead creature known for controlling other undead creatures with magic.

Planet PSR 1257+12 b Draugr Draugr refers to undead creatures in Norse mythology.

Planet PSR 1257+12 c Poltergeist Poltergeist is an name for supernatural beings that create physical disturbences, from German for “noisy ghost”.

Planet PSR 1257+12 d Phobetor Phobetor is a Greek mythological deity of nightmares, the son of Nyx, the primordial deity of night.

 

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