The International Astronomical Union has announced today the winners of the NameExoWorlds contest, the first ever official attempt to give names to new worlds. The contest was opened to the general public in August, and now 14 stars and 31 exoplanets have an official name that can be used beyond their existing scientific nomenclature.
A complete list of the names, including the voting statistics, has been published on the IAU NameExoWorlds website. The winners include familiar names like Copernicus and Galileo, alongside the slightly less known Hypatia and Intercrus.
The contest showed a true international interest in astronomy, with a total of 573,242 votes cast from all over the world. In total, they voted on 274 names proposed by 45 different astronomy groups, including observatories, schools, universities, and amateur astronomers.
Successful entries were received from across the globe: six from Asia-Pacific (Australia, Japan, Thailand), four from North America (U.S., Canada), one from Latin America and the Caribbean (Mexico), two from the Middle East & Africa (Morocco, Syria), and six from Europe (France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland).
The winning names show this intercontinental spirit: The names come from a variety of mythologies and folklore (Norse, Thai, Greek, Japanese, Celtic, Aztec), Latin words, historical locations, astronomers, and fictional characters.
This is the first time exoplanets have been officially named, as well as the first time in centuries to give popular names to stars. And don’t worry if you missed the chance this time around. The IAU plans to organize a new contest for at least one other object – tau Boötis, which was originally part of this group. After extensive deliberation, the IAU declared its name invalid as the winner didn’t conform to the IAU rules.
The names of all the other winners were validated by the IAU, although some required modifications due to the strict guidelines for naming new astronomical objects. All the modifications were made in agreement with the teams who originally proposed the name.