Science

Messi? Anita? You can name 20 exoplanets discovered by James Webb


Messi?  Anita?  You can name 20 exoplanets discovered by James Webb

Image: IAU/L. Pavement/Disclosure

Have you ever thought about naming a celestial object after your favorite artist? An IAU (International Astronomical Union) initiative can make this possible.

The organization has launched NameExoWorlds 2022allowing researchers and science enthusiasts to choose the names of the 20 exoplanets already identified by the James Webb telescope and the stars they orbit.

This is not the first time that a star nomination has been open to the public. The IAU organized the first such competition in 2015, allowing the public to choose a new name for 14 stars and 31 exoplanets. At that time, more than half a million votes had been received from 182 countries and territories.

If you stop thinking, you will realize that giving names to objects in nature is what people have been doing since the beginning of mankind. However, the first civilizations focused on what was here on Earth, such as the seas, rivers, and mountains. Now modern society can look at what is far above our heads.

The chosen names can be very diverse. In 2016, for example, the star Mu Arae was renamed Cervantesand the four planets revolving around it were called Quixote, Rocinante, Sancho and Dulcinea – a reference to the book “Don Quixote” written by Miguel de Cervantes.

Names must be proposed in groups that can be formed by students, professors, amateur astronomers, exoplanetary scientists, or anyone interested in participating.

Each team must choose a system consisting of a planet and a star, suggesting two names with an explanation and cultural context. Teams must also promote an astronomy outreach event related to exoplanets.

So, celebrity names and characters like star Lionel Messi, pop star Anitta, and the good-natured Homer Simpson can – why not? – read.

All exoplanets and stars already have scientific designations that will not be replaced by the winning names of the competition. However, the new names will be sanctioned by the IAU as official public names and may be freely used throughout the world. Communities responsible for winning proposals will receive due recognition.

You can access all rules and application form by clicking on this link.

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