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Update on contests to name exoplanets and craters on Mercury

Jenny Winder, News Writer
15 January 2015, 21:25 UTC

Sen—One contest that gives the public the chance to name exoplanets has opened, while another to find names for five impact craters on Mercury has now closed for submissions.

The ExoWorlds contest, organised by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), has begun its first round. This worldwide contest, which Sen reported before, will allow members of the public to give popular names to selected exoplanets.

The first round gives registered clubs and non-profit organisations the chance to nominate up to 20 exoplanetary systems and their host stars, to be made available for the next stage of the contest, where names can be proposed for the most popular so-called ExoWorlds.

The IAU brings together more than 10,000 professional astronomers from almost 100 countries. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. It was delegated the task of assigning scientifically recognised names to newly discovered celestial bodies by its member countries.

The NameExoWorlds contest is the first opportunity that the public will have to name not only exoplanets, but also, to give popular names to stars that have known exoplanets in orbit around them.

A screenshot from the NameExoWorlds web site. Image credit: IAU

Clubs and non-profit organisations must first register with the IAU Directory of World Astronomy. The deadline for which has been extended to 23:59 UTC on 15 May 2015. The deadline for the first stage of the contest itself is at 23:59 UTC on 15 February 2015, when nominations for 20 ExoWorlds to be named will close.

Once the most popular ExoWorlds have been identified, infomation about the stars and planets will be made available to all registered clubs and organisations so that they may submit their desired names. Each club or organisation can then propose a name for one ExoWorld.

Submissions must abide by the IAU Exoplanet Naming Conventions which state that proposed names should be: 16 characters or less in length; preferably one word; pronounceable (in some language); non-offensive and not too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object.

In addition names cannot be of pet animals, of a commercial, political, military or religious nature or of living individuals. All submissions must also be supported by a detailed argument for their choice.

When this stage has concluded, the public worldwide will then be invited to vote on their favourite proposed names. The final results are expected to be announced at a special public ceremony held during the IAU XXIX General Assembly in Honolulu, USA, 3–14 August 2015.

Meanwhile another competition launched in December, by the MESSENGER Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Team to name five impact craters on Mercury, closed today, 15 January, 2015. This contest, which Sen wrote about last month, allows the public to immortalize an important person in the arts and humanities from anywhere in the world.

New names for craters on Mercury must be that of an artist, composer, or writer who was famous for more than 50 years and has been dead for more than three years. Fifteen finalist names for craters will be submitted to the IAU for selection of the five winners. Winning submissions will be announced by the IAU to coincide with the end of MESSENGER’s orbital operations in late March or April 2015.

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