In recent years, astronomers have discovered thousands of planets and planetary systems orbiting around nearby stars. It is now believed that all stars in the Universe could have planets orbiting them and that some of them may even have physical characteristics that resemble the Earth. As a result of this, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) inaugurated the IAU100 Name ExoWorlds project to create awareness of our place in the Universe and to reflect on how the Earth would potentially be perceived by a civilisation on another planet. The project aims to contribute to the fraternity of all the people with a significant token of global identity by providing the opportunity to all countries in the world to name one exoplanet.
The project will have a lasting impact, as the winning names will be used in parallel with the existing scientific nomenclature, credited to the person, group or institution that suggested them.
“Astronomical observations over the past generation have now discovered over 4000 planets orbiting other stars—called exoplanets. The number of discoveries continues to double about every two and years, revealing remarkable new planet populations and putting our own Earth and Solar System in perspective. Statistically, most of the stars in the sky are likely to be orbited by their own planets—they are everywhere,” said Eric Mamajek, co-chair of the NameExoWorlds Steering Committee.
“While astronomers catalogue their new discoveries using telephone-number-like designations, there has been growing interest amongst astronomers and the public alike in also assigning proper names, as is done for Solar System bodies,” Mamajek continued.
The campaign, which started in June 2019, has gathered names from 112 countries of the world, proposed by individuals and the public, which has been approved by the campaign committee. The names for stars and exoplanets approved for each participating African country are:
Algeria – Hoggar and Tassili
Burkin Faso – Mounhoun and Nakanbé
Cote d’Ivoire – Nyamien and Asye
Ethiopia – Buna and Abol
Gabon – Itonda and Mintome
Ghana – Sika and Toge
Kenya – Kalausi and Buru
Madagascar – Rapeto and Trimobe
Mauritius – Diya and Cuptor
Morocco – Tislit and Isli
Mozambique – Emiw and Hairu
Nigeria – Amadioha and Equiano
Senegal – Belel and Dopere
South Africa – Naledi and Krotoa
Tanzania – Mpingo and Tanzanite
Togo – Atakoraka and Agouto
Tunisia- Chechia and Khomsa
Zambia- Natasha and Madalitso.
Ogechi Onuoha is a Cambridge Certified ESOL editor with a background in reporting, international relations, creative writing and adept in industry research and analysis. She is passionate about curating and evaluating the benefits/relevance of space to grassroots development and women’s participation in the space sector.