US Public to Name Newly Discovered Exoplanet

Astronomers need your help naming a newly discovered planet and the star it orbits. In recent years, astronomers have discovered thousands of planets and planetary systems orbiting around nearby stars. Some are small and rocky, like the Earth, while others are gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn.

Although the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the authority responsible for assigning official designations and names to celestial bodies, the IAU is designating one planetary system — an exoplanet and its host star — for each country across the globe, and is working with astronomy education and outreach leaders in those countries to gather planetary system name recommendations from the public. Each nation’s designated star is visible from that country, and sufficiently bright to be observed through small telescopes. The star for the United States is currently identified as HD 17156, a sun-like star in the constellation Cassiopeia. While scientists cannot directly image the planet orbiting HD 17156, current data indicates it is a Jupiter-sized gas giant with a highly eccentric orbit.

The US Exoplanet Naming Campaign will open September 15, 2019 and will remain open for one month. The US National Exoplanet Naming Committee expects to receive many proposals. A team of 30 amateur and professional astronomers, educators and students from the US and its territories will identify the 10 semi-finalists that will be voted on by the public at large. This list of 10 semi-finalists will be made available to the public for voting in late October.

Submissions may be made by individuals of any age or teams residing in the US or any of its 14 territories. All submissions must be received by October 15, 2019.

The US National Exoplanet Naming Committee includes Carmen Pantoja, University of Puerto Rico, Derrick Pitts and Joy Montefusco, The Franklin Institute, Vivian White, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and Yasmin Catricheo and Tim Spuck, Associated Universities Inc.

For more information on requirements, and to make a submission, visit  http://fi.edu/exo. The public can also follow the campaign via social media at #ourexoplanet.

The Exoplanet Naming Campaign is an IAU100 project celebrating the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union. Stephen Pompea of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory is the US IAU National Outreach Coordinator and Carmen Pantoja of the University of Puerto Rico is the US IAU Deputy Outreach Coordinator.

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