Roughly 2,000 known worlds orbit diverse locales throughout the Milky Way, and there’s one thing the exoplanets have in common: None of them have names. Now the International Astronomical Union is changing that with NameExoWorlds, an online contest in which the public votes on monikers for 20 special planets. The vote officially kicked off August 11 at a meeting of the IAU and ends on October 31.
Named after the stars they orbit, exoplanets are often known only by serial numbers. This leads to some unwieldy planet aliases such as OGLE-2012-BLG-0563Lb and HD 219134e. Last winter, the IAU rallied astronomy organizations to submit more memorable handles for some exoplanet VIPs, most of which were firsts of one kind or another.
The proposed names run the gamut from the traditional to the bizarre. Perhaps iota Draconis b will be rechristened as Hypatia, after the 4th century Greek mathematician. Exuberant Internet voters could stick Fomalhaut b with the label Leisurely Fish because it moves slowly through the constellation Pisces.