Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Labeling exoworlds: Name an exosolar planet! Try CosmoBlue!

If you want to get involved in naming well-characterized planets that were discovered in exoplanetary systems prior to December 31, 2008, here is your gateway: You may just want to sign up and cast a vote on suggested names as an individual. Community-based, your astronomy-interested club or a public astronomical organization, including planetariums and amateur astronomy groups, will be admitted to submit a naming proposal [1]— ganz offiziell! [2]. The results will be announced in August during a meeting of the IAU (International Astronomical Union) in Honolulu, Hawaii. Daniel Stone writes [3]:

If you've ever wanted to name a planet, now's your chance. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) wants help naming 32 exoplanetsplanets that orbit a star other than our sun. Scientific and cultural organizations were asked to submit potential names. The public can rank finalists at until July 15.

The winning public names will not replace scientific designations (usually consisting of a proper noun or abbreviation, sometimes followed by numbers and always followed by a lowercase letter [4]); but will be IAU-recognized  “with due credit to the organization that proposed it” [1].

What names can we expect, or should we not expect, to win?
Names that are trademark-protected or of a principally commercial nature will not be considered. Also excluded are names of living individuals and pets. Offensive words and terms with politically sensitive associations won't have a chance either. Proposed names should be 16 characters or less in length, preferably one word, pronounceable and “not too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object.”

I guess, CosmoBlue would be a name that fits the above criteria. I know a cat named Cosmo, but she is not blue—so, the pet name violation is circumvented. Further, we need to search—at least—trademark databases and astronomical databases such as the IAU's Minor Planet Center. The latter tells me that it does not have any matching documents for CosmoBlue. The name “CosmoBlue” sounds like a distinctive candidate. Yet, I am not sure if such a promising name should be wasted for a non-habitable planet.

Keywords: astronomy, astronomical nomenclature, exoplanet designation, public naming campaign, Zooniverse.

Rules and references
[1] Name exoworlds: Rules and Privacy. []. 
[2] Jan Hattenbach ( Benennen Sie einen Exoplaneten und das offiziell! [].
[3] Daniel Stone: What should the name be? You Decide. National Geography July 2015, 228 (1), no page number. 
[4] International Astronomical Union: Naming of exoplanets [].