International Astronomical Union (IAU) Planet-Naming Contest Opening Up

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) will open up exoplanet naming contests starting next year, in an effort to cut off the complicated names following the once-strict naming guidelines.

Instead of having the next OGLE235-MOA53 b exoplanet, other suitable – and potentially amusing – names could be up for grabs.  It’s a difficult task for the IAU, as there are so many exoplanets being discovered, and trying to assign names too complicated is a major headache.

The IAU has teamed up with Zooniverse and created a list of 305 exoplanets in 206 solar systems – with astronomy organizations and researchers able to select planets to be named, which will begin in September.

Here is what an IAU representative said in a statement regarding the contest:

“People have been naming celestial objects for millennia, long before any scientific system of names ever existed.  Even today, almost every civilization and culture uses common names to describe the stars and planets visible to the naked eye, as well as their apparent distribution on the sky – constellations, asterisms [star patterns], etc.”

Several planet naming services have cropped up, allowing participants to pay a fee to vote, though the IAU quickly put a stop to those startups.  A public vote will open up in March 2015, with winning names unveiled to the public in August 2015.

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