Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Help name an exoplanet

Last year, the International Astronomical Union (IAU for short) decided that exoplanets deserve names. The IAU is the organization responsible for assigning names to astronomical objects and for demoting Pluto from a planet to a dwarf-planet.

Exoplanets are planets in orbit around stars other than our own sun. Over the past decade, hundreds of exoplanets have been discovered. The hope: exoplanets similar to the earth will eventually be discovered, planets that might be capable of supporting life. In fact we've discovered a wide variety of exoplanets, but we haven't found life beyond our solar system.

Individuals like you can be part of the process of naming one of these exoplanets. For now everyone must go through an official IAU astronomical organization. At the time of this post, there are two such organizations in the Ann Arbor area, the Ann Arbor Hands Museum and the University Lowbrow Astronomers. If you want to participate now you should look at the rules for this process (see the following web site)...

If you want to work through the Lowbrows, please leave a suggested name along with a short reason why you think it is an good name for a planet as a comment on this post. We will go through the comments, we are allowed to submit one name, so we will pick what we consider to be the best name and submit it.

You can also go to to find other organizations to work with.

Over the next few months suggested names will be send to the IAU by the Lowbrows and other organizations. Sometime this summer, all interested parties will be allowed to vote on the different names that the IAU has received.


  1. Here were some suggestions to start with. Other suggestions are welcome...


    Kurt Hillig

    And to kick off the discussion, I'd propose naming them after planets found in science fiction stories - for example:

    Trantor, Kalgan, Terminus, Florina, Solaria, Helicon, Horleggor (Isaac Asimov)
    Tralfamadore (Kurt Vonnegut)
    Lotarf, Klendathu,
    Felicity, Ratoon (Robert Heinlein)
    Kithrup, Jijo, Deemi (David Brin)
    Arrakis, Caladan, Tleilax (Frank Herbert)
    Annares, Gethen, Hain, Rocannon's World (Ursula LeGuin)
    Barsoom, Cyteen, Heliconia, Gor, Dorsai, Pyrrus (various)

    Any other SciFi fans out there have good planet names memorized? I'd have to troll through my library to come up with others right now...


    Douglas Scobel

    Ork (Mork from Ork - Nanoo Nanoo!)



    The club should submit an exoplanet name, The name will be "NIBIRU". Remember the 2012 Mayan Calendar dooms day scenario. The 10 planet that was supposed to return and signal the apocalypse was "NIBIRU" we should submit; "NIBIRUBROW"
    "Ya" it's a long shot, but it might work :-P

  2. I had talked with a former club member. We both have the first name "Dave." So the suggestion came up "Planet Dave", however this might violate the rule that exoplanets cannot be named after living people.