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Turning to the crowd to name newly discovered planets

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Turning to the crowd to name newly discovered planets

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Last year one of the more bizarre stories of the summer emerged, with news that a site had been created to help parents to name their baby.  Of course, such sites are plentiful on the web, but this one was different in that it would essentially crowdsource the whole affair.  It’s part of a trend known as Belly Branding, whereby parents increasingly turn to other people to choose the name of their little progeny.

I’m not sure that would prevent some of the bizarre names that children are given, but that is clearly the hope of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), who announced plans this month to crowdsource names for over 300 thus far un-named exoplanets.

The IAU are the official body tasked with sanctioning both the scientific and common names for planets, and they’ve created a site called NameExoWorlds whereby members of the public can contribute to the naming process.

They are jumping on a growing trend of citizen science in astronomy based fields, with sites such as Zooniverse proving enormously popular in allowing hobbyists to contribute to all manner of stargazing endeavours.  The hope is that NameExoWorlds will attract a similar audience, with the core being from astronomy clubs and astronomy related organizations.

This core audience will be tasked with filtering the list down to around 30 exo-planets that they wish to see named, together with proposed names for them.  These will then be opened up to the public to vote on what they believe is the best name for each of the short-listed exo=planets, with the winning names due to be announced in August 2015.

Names can be in any language, preferably one word, 16 characters or less, but cannot be offensive or trademarked. They also can’t be of a “commercial nature,” of people, places or events known for political, military or religious activities, or of people who are still alive.

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