You Are Now Officially Invited to Nominate Names for Exoplanets

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), which oversees planetary nomenclature, today invited the public to submit and vote on names for recently discovered exoplanets and their parent stars. Anyone wanting to see a planet named "Gallifrey" or "Waist-Deep Cats" – today is the day you've been waiting for.

Today's invitation comes almost a year after the IAU reversed its official stance on whether to bother naming exoplanets in the first place (Kepler is finding them at a pretty rapid clip these days) and whether the public should be included in the naming process. Here's some nitty gritty, via today's official announcement:

For the first time, in response to the public's increased interest in being part of discoveries in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is organizing a worldwide contest to give popular names to selected exoplanets along with their host stars. The proposed names will be submitted by astronomy clubs and non-profit organisations interested in astronomy, and votes will be cast by the public from across the world through the web platform NameExoWorlds. This platform is under development by the IAU in association with Zooniverse. The intention is that millions of people worldwide will be able to take part in the vote. Once the votes are counted, the winning names will be officially sanctioned by the IAU, allowing them to be used freely in parallel with the existing scientific nomenclature, with due credit to the clubs or organizations that proposed them.

...The NameExoWorlds contest aims at crowdsourcing the process by which public names will be given to a large sample of well-studied, confirmed exoplanets and their host stars, referred to as ExoWorlds. The NameExoWorlds vote is conceived as a global, cross-cultural, educational, and above all ambitious and challenging contest, both for the IAU–Zooniverse partnership, and for the public. The main steps of the contest are the following [2]:

  1. A list of 305 well-characterized exoplanets, discovered prior to 31 December 2008 [3], has been selected for naming by the IAU Exoplanets for the Public Working Group and is being published today on the www.NameExoWorlds.orgwebsite. These exoplanets belong to 260 exoplanetary systems comprising one to five members, in addition to their host star.
  2. In parallel, an IAU Directory for World Astronomy website is being prepared (directory.iau.org). This site will open in September 2014 and astronomy clubs and non-profit organisations interested in naming these exoplanets will be invited to register. The IAU will have the capability to handle the registration of thousands of such groups.
  3. In October 2014, these clubs or organizations will be asked to vote for the 20–30 exoworlds they wish to name out of the list provided by the IAU. The actual number will depend on how many groups have registered.
  4. From December 2014, these clubs or organizations will be able to send in proposals for the names of members and host stars of these selected ExoWorlds, based on the rules in the IAU Exoplanet Naming Theme, together with a detailed supporting argument for their choice. Each group will be allowed to name only one exoworld. More details on this stage will be given later.
  5. From March 2015, the general public will be able to vote to rank the proposed exoworld names. The IAU and Zooniverse will be ready to handle a million votes or more worldwide.
  6. Starting from July 2015, the IAU, via its Public Naming of Planets and Planetary Satellites Working Group, will oversee the final stages of the contest, and will validate the winning names from the vote.
  7. The results will be announced at a special public ceremony held during the IAU XXIX General Assembly in Honolulu, USA, 3–14 August 2015.

The naming process will take place on www.NameExoWorlds.org website, where we encourage volunteers to translate the content into different languages in order to offer everyone the opportunity to take part in the contest (volunteer translators may email: cjl@astro.ox.ac.uk).

More details at the IAU. (Go Team Waist-Deep Cats!)