Queen's astronomers call on public to help name a strange new world
Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast joined together with amateur astronomers, science enthusiasts and families across Northern Ireland to help find a new name for a distant star and planet.
The International Astronomy Union (I.A.U) has kicked off its 2022 NameExoWorlds scheme, which offers countries around the world a chance to name an exoplanet and its host star.
In a bid to propose a winning name, members of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s called on the general public to come together for a public talk and some activities, and to vote on a shortlisted selection of names for two celestial bodies. The winning name pairing would then be submitted to the I.A.U to potentially become the officially recognised name for the star and planet.
Aaron Monson, a PhD student in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s commented: “We’ve all heard of the names of planets in our solar system, and even the names of so many fictional ones from science-fiction. This is a unique chance for people in Northern Ireland to help propose a name for a distant star and the alien world that orbits it.
“The names we propose should be significant to the history, culture and folklore of Northern Ireland, so drawing on the thoughts and votes from as many people as possible is best for strengthening the submission."
The N.A.M.E.S: Name A Marvellous Exoplanet System’ event took place in the Larmor Lecture Theatre at Queen’s from 7pm - 8.30pm on Wednesday 9 November. The winning proposals were:
Star: Solas - meaning "light" in Irish
Planet: Danu - a goddess of Nature in Irish mythology
These names, proposed by Lauren Mc Ginley and the class of PHY2003, will be the QUB bid submitted as part of the NameExoWorlds2022 initiative. The celestial bodies we have chosen to name are the star and a super-earth exoplanet of the system L 168-9 in the constellation Tucana.
The results of the International Astronomy Union's selected proposals will be announced in March 2023, so please keep an eye out to see if our bid is successful!