Exoplanets are exciting, but they're usually saddled with eye-glazing names like "HD 8574 b" or "HD 17156 b." That's about to change for a whole lot of lucky exoplanets and their host stars.
The International Astronomical Union is the governing body that manages the names of astronomical objects. It announced a global NameExoWorlds campaign on Thursday that invites every country on Earth to name an exoplanet and its star buddy.
The IAU has already done the heavy lifting and figured out which stars are visible by small telescopes from each country. So the US gets to name the yellow dwarf star HD 17156 in the Cassiopeia constellation along with its exoplanet HD 7156 b. The UK will need to come up with a fitting name for WASP-13 in the Lynx constellation. Australia, you're on for HD 38283 in Mensa.
Almost 100 countries have already signed up to run public voting competitions to select a popular name for their stars and planets.
You may be raring at the opportunity to suggest and vote for names, but there will be no Planety McPlanetFaces here. There are some strict naming rules in place.
"The proposed names should be of things, people, or places of long-standing cultural, historical, or geographical significance, worthy of being assigned to a celestial object," the IAU says.
The national campaigns are expected to run between June and November, so keep an eye on the IAU site for how to participate in your country. The winning names will be announced in December.
You won't ever get to visit your country's exoplanet, but you will be able to spot it in the night sky and call it by its name.
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Originally published 9:43 a.m. PT.