Exoplanets naming: Brunei proposal accepted

Hakim Hayat

Over 110 sets of names of exoplanets and host stars selected in the international astronomical union’s (IAU) 100 NameExoWorlds campaigns worldwide were announced at a press conference in Paris, France yesterday, and the names submitted by a Bruneian were also selected, said the Astronomical Society of Brunei Darussalam.

The new IAU names for exoplanet (HD 179949b) and its hosting star (HD 179949) are Mastika and Gumala.

These terms, which are associated with precious gems and stones in the Malay Language, were proposed by Pengiran Mohammad Rezal bin Pengiran Haji Osman through the national NameExoWorlds programme organised by the Astronomical Society of Brunei Darussalam recently.

More than 110 countries organised national campaigns that attracted over 780,000 participations worldwide, in proposing and selecting names for each exoplanet and its host star.

The campaigns were held in conjunction with the IAU’s 100th anniversary commemorations (IAU100) this year.

This is only the second time in history that a campaign has led to the naming of stars and exoplanets. Overall, 360 000 proposals for names were received from over 110 countries and the National Committee in each country reduced their proposals to a shortlist of national candidates, which were presented to the public for their votes.

A total of 420,000 people voted for their preferred candidates. 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 4,000 planets orbiting other stars – called exoplanets. The number of discoveries continues to double about every two and a half 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 Co-chair of the NameExoWorlds Steering Committee Eric Mamajek. “While astronomers catalogue their new discoveries using telephone-number-like designations, there has been growing interest among astronomers and the public alike in also assigning proper names, as is done for Solar System bodies,” Mamajek said.

Some other new IAU names for exoplanets and their stars included the names of ancient cities and protected areas in southern Jordan, for the exoplanet WASP-80b (Wadirum) orbiting the star WASP-80 (Petra) in the constellation of Aquila (the Eagle).

“The IAU is delighted to see the broad international interest that this NameExoWorlds campaign has generated,” noted IAU President-elect Debra Elmegreen. “It is gratifying that so many people across the globe have helped create a name for a planetary system that is meaningful to their culture and heritage. This effort helps unite us all in our exploration of the Universe.”