Within the framework of its 100th-anniversary commemorations, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is organising the IAU100 NameExoWorlds global competition that allows any country in the world to give a popular name to a selected exo-planet and its host star. Over 70 countries have already signed up to organise national campaigns that will provide the public with an opportunity to vote. The aim of this initiative is to create awareness of the Earth’s place in the Universe and to reflect on how the Earth would potentially be perceived by a civilisation on another planet.
In recent years, astronomers have discovered thousands of planets and planetary systems orbiting around nearby stars. Some are small and rocky like the Earth, whilst others are gas giants like Jupiter. It is now believed that most stars in the Universe could have planets orbiting them and that some of them may have physical characteristics that resemble those of the Earth. The sheer number of stars in the Universe, each potentially with orbiting planets, along with the ubiquity of pre-biotic compounds, suggests that extraterrestrial life may be likely.
The IAU is the authority responsible for assigning official designations and names to celestial bodies and now, while celebrating its first 100 years of fostering international collaboration (IAU100), it wishes to contribute to the fraternity of all people with a significant token of global identity. Following the first NameExoWorlds competition, which named 19 exo-planets in 2015, the IAU will now, within the framework of the IAU100 NameExoWorlds project, offer every country the chance to name one planetary system, comprising an exo-planet and its host star. Each nation’s designated star is visible from that country, and sufficiently bright to be observed through small telescopes. This is only the second time in history that a competition will lead to the naming of stars and exo-planets.
After carefully selecting a large sample of well-studied, confirmed exo-planets and their host stars, the IAU100 NameExoWorlds Steering Committee assigned a star-planet system to each country, taking account of the association with the country and the visibility of the host star from the country. In each participating country, a national committee has been specially created by the National Outreach Coordinators (IAU NOCs) to carry out the competition at the national level. The national committee, following the methodology and guidelines set up by the IAU100 Name ExoWorlds Steering Committee, is the body responsible for providing the conditions for public participation, disseminating the project in the country and establishing a voting system.
The National Competitions will be carried out from June to November 2019 and, after final validation by the IAU100 NameExoWorlds Steering Committee, the global results will be announced in December 2019. The winning names will be used freely in parallel with the existing scientific nomenclature, with due credit to the persons that proposed them.
“This exciting event invites everyone worldwide to think about their collective place in the Universe, while stimulating creativity and global citizenship. The NameExoworlds initiative reminds us that we are all together, under one sky”, said Debra Elmegreen, IAU President-elect.
Nigeria has been assigned to name Star HD 43197 and Exo-planet HD 43197 B. An online voting poll has been designed to allow individuals and groups to take part in this task by voting for the star or exo-planet of their choice; you can also suggest a name of your choice for the star and exo-planet.
About Star HD 43197
HD 43197 is a sub-giant star that can be located in the constellation of Canis major. The description is based on the spectral class. HD 43197 is not part of the constellation outline, but is within the borders of the constellation. Based on the spectral type (G8/K0IV/V) of the star, the star’s colour is white to yellow. The star cannot be seen by the naked eye; you need a telescope to see it. HD 43197 has at least 1 extra-solar planet believed to be in orbit around the star. Using the most recent figures given by the 2007 Hipparcos data, the star is 183.65 light years away from us. For HD 43197, the location is 06h 13m 35.56s and -29° 53` 50.3 and is determined by the Right Ascension (R.A.) and Declination (Dec.) which are equivalent to the Longitude and Latitude of the Earth.
About Exo-planet HD 43197 B
HD 43197 B is a gas giant exoplanet that orbits a G-type star. Its mass is 0.6 Jupiters, it takes 327.8 days to complete one orbit of its star, and is 0.92 AU from its star. Its discovery was announced in 2010. Its eccentricity is 0.83 and the detection method is through radial velocity.
To take part in the online voting, click here. You can only vote once and voting closes on the 30th of November 2019.
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.