The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has announced a new competition called NameExoWorlds 2022. The competition is aimed at helping astronomers come up with names for 20 exoplanetary systems observed using the James Webb space telescope. Here’s everything you need to know to get your submissions in for a chance to help name a planet and go down in history.

Here’s how you can help name a planet

you can help name a planet – here’s how
Image source: dottedyeti / Adobe

If you’ve ever paid attention to any stars, planets, or anything astronomers have discovered, you’ll probably notice that many have multiple names. These often include the astronomical name and then the approved name.

These names help differentiate between the different systems and planets we’ve discovered, and often the planets are named after their stars.

Unfortunately, naming these celestial objects is mostly left up to the IAU, which was formed in 1919. Since its formation, the IAU has worked diligently to keep consistent naming conventions for all celestial objects. Now, though, it wants the general public’s help to name planets discovered using the James Webb space telescope.

To help name a planet, folks must meet a few requirements listed on the IAU’s press release about the event. First, you’ll need to create a team and bring together students, teachers, and other astronomy enthusiasts.

You also need to conduct an astronomy outreach event related to exoplanets. You’ll also need to choose a system from the list of 20 ExoWorlds the IAU has provided and propose a name for the system. Be sure to include an explanation of the names meaning or cultural context.

Finally, you’ll need to fill out a form and register your team. Once you’ve done that, you can submit the name of the planet to the IAU.

It’s a unique opportunity and one that doesn’t come up often. So, if you’ve ever wanted to help name a planet and add your own mark to the astronomical history books, now is a fantastic time to jump in and give it a whirl. Of course, only a limited number of exoplanets need naming. As such, you’ll want to get your submission in before they close on November 11, 2022.

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