You could help to name a new planet - here’s how to get involved

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 09:41 am
Updated Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 10:41 am

Asking the public to name something of importance is becoming more and more common.

From boats to storms, the chance for an average person to stamp their identity onto something significant is appealing to many, and this latest opportunity may be the biggest yet.

Scientists are asking the public to name a planet found hundreds of light years away from earth. The planet in question is an exoplanet, sitting out in the Lynx constellation roughly 740 light years away from Earth.

A global competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) sees astronomer asking young people from 93 different countries to take part in a competition to name different planetary systems.

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The UK’s portion of the competition is to name the aforementioned exoplanet, which orbits a sun much like our own.

The host star is known as WASP-143 and the as-yet-unnamed planet is a gaseous giant.

A way to engage young people

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.

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

“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.”

Schools and youth organisations will be able to submit their ideas for names for the planet via an online for between 6 September and 18 October.

A panel of astronomers will then make a shortlist, and the final decision will go down to a public vote. The winning names will be announced in December.