Did you know you could name a planet?

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Image: IAU ODL/NARIT

Since NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency launched the James Webb Space Telescope in December 2021, we’ve been treated to some of the most extraordinary images of space (or anywhere) ever captured.

The big and current space telescope has also been observing new exoplanetary systems – and now, International Astronomers Union (IAU) would like some help from the public to name 20. That’s right: This is your chance to name a planet. Here’s what you need to know.

How to name a planet?

First a few clarifications. An “exoplanet” is a planet that exists outside of our solar system; is an “exoplanetary system” an exoplanet and its host star.

And since 1919, the IAU has been tasked with cataloging celestial bodies and establishing consistent conventions for naming them (among other things) — which explains why they call the NameExoWorlds 2022 contest to name 20 exoplanetary systems.

How to enter the NameExoWorlds 2022 Contest

This is a group project, so before you start coming up with names, you need to put together a team, or join a team that already exists. And not just any team: one “composed of students and faculty, astronomy enthusiasts, amateur astronomers and exoplanetary scientists,” according to the IAU. But tothere is no limit to the number of people who can participate a team.

Once you’ve assembled (or joined) your dream team, it’s time to get started. There are detailed instructions and regulations you can read to get all the details, but here’s a basic rundown of what your team needs to do:

  • Choose a system from the 20 ExoWorlds on the list
  • Host an astronomy event related to exoplanets
  • Suggest a name for the exoplanet and its host star in your language, and explain the cultural context
  • Register your team and submit your naming proposal (written format + video) through this form

The fine print

Teams may submit one entry – meaning a pair of names: one for the exoplanet and one for the host star. All proposals must be submitted by 11 November 2022. They will then be vetted and judged, and the winners will be announced on March 20, 2023.

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