Not inspired by the boring scientific numbering of exoplanets? Well, here’s your chance to name an alien world and its host star by connecting them to human cultures.
To mark the 10th anniversary of its Office for Astronomy Outreach, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is holding a competition to name 20 exoplanetary systems that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will observe. (The UAI is responsible for all names in the space.) The competition, NameExoWorlds 2022aims to bring together professional astronomers and the general public to provide the opportunity to nominate 20 selected exoplanetsas well as their host stars, while creating links between space science and various cultures on Earth.
To name an exoplanet and its star, participants must form a team that brings together a combination of students and teachers, astronomy enthusiasts, amateur astronomers and professional astronomers. Teams must choose a target system, brainstorm ideas, then come up with a name for the planet and host star, along with an explanation of the cultural context of the suggestion. Proposals must be submitted in written and video form. Teams will also receive support from IAU National Outreach Coordinators (NOC).
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Proposals will go through a two-stage selection process. First, an NOC-led national selection panel will select one national candidate and two reserve names. Then, a final selection committee will review the nominees from each country and select one name for each ExoWorld.
“It is exciting to have a new NameExoWorlds competition underway to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Office for Astronomy Outreach,” said IAU President Debra Elmegreen in a statement. “Over the past decade, the OAO has worked to build bridges between professionals, amateurs, communicators, educators and the public.”
The UAI has organized a number of previous NameExoWorlds initiatives, with the aim of highlighting the importance of the connections between the sky and our diverse cultures. This year’s edition is distinguished by the involvement of the first targets of the JWST.
The IAU is also infamous Degraded Pluto from planet to dwarf planet in 2006.
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