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The Name Game

The votes are in: Exoplanets get new names

Catchy titles given to 14 stars and 31 exoplanets

By
7:00am, January 18, 2016
mu ares exoplanets

TILTING AT WINDMILLS  The planets of the Mu Arae system, illustrated, are now named for Cervantes characters, beating out those of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein.

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Step aside Venus and Neptune, our solar system is no longer the only one whose planets have catchy names. On December 15, the International Astronomical Union announced the winners of a contest to name the planets and suns of 20 systems (SN: 10/3/15, p. 5). Exoplanet enthusiasts in 182 countries and regions cast more than 573,000 votes. Here are five favorites along with some monikers that didn't fly. 

18 Delphini b

Winning name: Arion 

Relevance: Greek poet who wrote of being rescued from pirates by a dolphin, appropriate for a planet in the dolphin constellation

Losing name: Maru, a large baby from an old Japanese story

55 Cancri and its five planets

Winning names: Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Lippershey, Janssen, Harriot 

Relevance: Astronomers and telescope makers from Poland, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Holland and England 

Losing names: Aregak, Arusyak, Hrat, Yerevak, Paylatzu and Lusntag, Armenian names for the sun and the five planets of our solar system visible to the naked eye

Iota Draconis b

Winning name: Hypatia

Relevance: 4th century Egyptian mathematician, astronomer and philosopher

Losing name: Misopan, a soy-based Japanese dessert

PSR 1257+12c

Winning name: Poltergeist

Relevance: Mischievous spirit that disturbs its environment, much like this planet disturbs the steady beat of its pulsar sun

Losing name: Andie, which when combined with suggested names for neighboring planets, Rockie and Rollie, makes this a Rockin’-And-Rollin’ system

Mu Arae e

Winning name: Sancho

Relevance: Squire of Cervantes’ Don Quixote

Losing name: NoisyRhysling, a character in Robert Heinlein’s “Green Hills of Earth”

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