International Astronomical Union | 2019 Jun 06
IAU100 NameExoWorlds gives every country in the world the opportunity to name an exoplanet and its host star
In recent years, astronomers have discovered thousands of planets and planetary systems orbiting around nearby stars. Some are small and rocky like the Earth, whilst others are gas giants like Jupiter. It is now believed that most stars in the Universe could have planets orbiting them and that some of them may have physical characteristics that resemble those of the Earth. The sheer number of stars in the Universe, each potentially with orbiting planets, along with the ubiquity of pre-biotic compounds, suggests that extraterrestrial life may be likely.
The IAU is the authority responsible for assigning official designations and names to celestial bodies and now, while celebrating its first 100 years of fostering international collaboration (IAU100), it wishes to contribute to the fraternity of all people with a significant token of global identity. Following the first NameExoWorlds campaign, which named 31 exoplanets in 19 planetary systems in 2015, the IAU will now, within the framework of the IAU100 NameExoWorlds project, offer every country the chance to name one planetary system, comprising an exoplanet and its host star. Each nation's designated star is visible from that country, and sufficiently bright to be observed through small telescopes. This is only the second time in history that a campaign will lead to the naming of stars and exoplanets. ...