SCIENCE

You Can Help Name The Planets Discovered Outside The Solar System

One star and its planet could become "Starry Bunnies" and "Tortoise."
An artist’s impression originally created to show the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B. The Internat
An artist’s impression originally created to show the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B. The International Astronomical Union is seeking the public's help in naming these distant worlds. 

Astronomers have found 1,883 planets orbiting stars outside our solar system (a.k.a. exoplanets) with thousands of other potential candidates being evaluated right now. 

And most of them have super boring names, like the star 51 Pegasi and its planet, 51 Pegasi b. 

The International Astronomical Union is seeking the public's help in giving 20 of these stars and their planets new and more colorful names via the NameExoWorlds online vote -- but there are a few rules.  

You can't give a planet any random name, because there are no write-in votes. They're all multiple choice options, based on name possibilities selected with the help of astronomy clubs and nonprofits around the world, according to IAU.  

So 51 Pegasi and 51 Pegasi b, for example, have 11 possible naming options. The pair could become "Starry Bunnies" and "Tortoise" (because, apparently, at least one club believes the two resemble the tortoise and the hare) or "Carl" and "Dot" after astronomer Carl Sagan and his description of Earth as the "pale blue dot."

Other options for the star and its planet include "Apollonis" for Apollo and "Neil" for U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong.

All the possibilities come in sets, so a star and its planet or planets will have names consistent with a theme. Like PSR 1257+12 and its three planets, which could end up being "Rock'n'Roll Star" and "Rockie," "Andie," and "Rollie" for its planets. 

The name possibilities run the gamut from endangered animals to ancient gods to characters in folk tales. One planet, iota Draconis b, could end up with the name "Misopan" -- a Japanese bun filled with soybean paste.

Many proposed names come with explanations (the soybean bun, however, is a bit of a mystery with no additional information offered). 

Make your selections right here. You can vote once per device, and have until Oct. 31. The results will be announced in mid-November. 

 

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