Astronomers want the public to suggest names for alien planets

Yet again scientists have turned to the general public for help with naming important stuff.

This time, it’s alien planets or – specifically – one exoplanet sitting out in the Lynx constellation roughly 740 light years away from Earth.

Astronomers are asking young people to come up with a new moniker for the exoplanet as part of a global competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Some 93 countries have been invited to name different planetary systems and the one for the UK is the aforementioned planet currently orbiting a sun much like our own.

The host star is known as WASP-143 and the as-yet-unnamed planet is a gaseous giant. Planety McPlanetface is, presumably, off the table.

Professor Robert Walsh, professor of astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and UK national outreach coordinator for the IAU, will run the UK arm of the competition.

‘This is an unparalleled chance for a school or youth group to leave its mark on the universe,’ he said.

‘Imagine there being a star and planet out there that will have the name you chose forever more.

‘We hope that teachers and youth leaders will embrace this competition as a way to engage young people in science by exploring the wonders beyond our own Solar System.’

Between Friday September 6 and Friday October 18, schools and youth organisations across the country can make their suggestions via an online submission form.

A panel of astronomy experts will then whittle the names down to a final selection before the public vote for their favourites in mid-November.

The winning names will be announced in mid-December along with all other selected names from countries participating in the competition.

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