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article imageFancy naming a planet? NameExoWorlds contest opens

By Robert Myles     Jan 14, 2015 in Science
Paris - Ever fancied naming a planet? Now’s your chance as the first ever contest — NameExoWorlds — started this week allowing members of the public to name planets outwith our solar system, known as exoplanets.
The first round opened January 13 and registered clubs and non-profit organizations have the chance to nominate their favourite systems to take through to succeeding rounds.
The NameExoWorlds competition, organized worldwide by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), is looking for popular names for selected exoplanets. Up till now, the growing number of exoplanets discovered have been tagged with distinctly unmemorable alphanumeric names but all that’s about to change as attempts are made to find more familiar names for well-studied exoplanets discovered over twenty years, up to Dec. 31, 2008.
The competition organizers determined that a period of at least five years since an exoplanet's discovery can be utilized as a simple and satisfactory criterion to include exoplanets which can be considered as confirmed.
For the purposes of the NameExoWorlds competition, the IAU has published an extensive list of exoplanets, along with their host stars, currently in search of a popular name.
In the competition’s first round, all registered clubs and non-profits can nominate up to 20 ExoWorlds — defined as exoplanetary systems and their host stars — to be made available for the next stage of the contest. As the contest moves on, so individual names can then be proposed for the most popular ExoWorlds.
Names for celestial objects have been around for centuries, a prime example being the names of mythical characters given to star constellations as they appear to us in the night sky. But as the power of telescopes increases and astronomers discover more and more objects, be it distant galaxies or the ever growing number of exoplanets, the IAU was tasked by its member countries with assigning scientifically recognised names to newly discovered celestial bodies.
Founded in 1919, the Paris-based IAU is an international astronomical organization with more than 10,000 professional astronomers from almost 100 countries under its umbrella. Apart from its primary mission to promote astronomy through international cooperation, the IAU is also the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and surface features on them.
The NameExoWorlds contest is the first chance offered to the public to name not only exoplanets, but also, for the first time in centuries, to give popular names to a number of stars known to have exoplanets in orbit around them.
To participate in the contest, clubs and non-profits must first register with the IAU Directory of World Astronomy. The closing date for such registrations has been extended to 23:59 UTC, May 15, 2015.
The deadline for stage one of the competition is 23:59 UTC, Feb. 15 2015. At that stage, nominations for 20 ExoWorlds to be named will close. During the next stage of the contest, once the most popular ExoWorlds have been identified, the IAU will make available details of the stars and planets seeking a more user-friendly name and all registered clubs and organizations can then submit proposals to name them.
Each entrant body can propose a name for one ExoWorld. Doctor Who enthusiasts or Trekkers please note: all submissions are required to abide by the IAU Exoplanet Naming Conventions so the likes of Skaro, Romulus or Kronos are pretty much ruled out.
Any submissions should be accompanied by a supporting argument setting out reasons for a particular name being proposed. At the conclusion of this stage, the IAU will invite members of the public worldwide to vote on their favourite proposed names.
The IAU anticipates announcing the final results at a special public ceremony held during the IAU’s XXIX General Assembly in Honolulu, Hawaii scheduled for Aug 3-14, 2015.
More about Astonomy, astronomy news, Exoplanets, International astronomical union, Iau
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