August 8, 2019 3:01 pm
Updated: August 9, 2019 3:03 pm

Canadians invited to name star and exoplanet through national contest

WATCH ABOVE: Emily Mertz explains how Canadians have a chance to name both a star and an exoplanet.

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Currently, Canada has two stellar bodies referred to as: star HD136418 and its exoplanet HD136418b but a national contest hopes to find them more memorable names.

“Names for stars and planets capture our imagination,” said Sharon Morsink, associate professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Physics and lead on the Canadian initiative.

“It’s a great way to get people excited and thinking about the universe.

“Names are very personal. You don’t name your children: ‘child’ and ‘child B.’ You give them names that mean something to you.”

The contest, which is open to the public, runs until Sept. 20.

LISTEN BELOW: Dr. Sharon Morsink joins the Ryan Jespersen Show

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And, while the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) is looking forward to some unique and meaningful name suggestions, it also plans to avoid a “Boaty McBoatface” scenario.

READ MORE: Internet asked to name $375M ship, naturally they suggest Boaty McBoatface

“We’ve put together an expert panel of judges from across Canada who will be looking very carefully at the list of names to come up with a short list of five to 10 that not only best represent Canada but also adhere to the guidelines set by the IAU (International Astronomical Union),” said Morsink.

Morsink also said no commercial names will be accepted, and names of people will only be accepted if the person has been dead for more than 100 years.

Watch below (Aug. 1): NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered its first potentially habitable world outside of our own solar system, dubbed a super-Earth, about 31 light-years away. Mike Armstrong explains why scientists think the planet, named GJ 357 d, could support life.

Naming convention has the name of the star preceded by “HD,” which refers to the Henry Draper Catalogue, the famed astronomer who was the first to photograph a star’s spectrum in 1872. “B” or “C” are added for subsequent planets.

“We can do better than that,” Morsink said. “Things become more important in our minds when we actually name them.”

People can submit their names and supporting rationale for both the star and exoplanet online. Once the judges have shortlisted the potential names, Canadians will then have a chance to vote on their top picks.

READ MORE: Minor planet named after Vancouver Island First Nation

Star HD136418 & exoplanet HD136418b

The star is approximately 340 light years from the Earth in the constellation Bootes, and has a temperature similar to the Sun’s.

The planet is a gas giant, with a diameter that is 1.2 larger than Jupiter’s diameter. The planet takes 464.3 Earth-days to orbit the star at a distance that is 1.3 times farther away than the Earth’s distance from the Sun. Since the planet is a gas giant it probably isn’t habitable by life similar to ours. But if the planet has a moon with an atmosphere, the moon could possibly have an Earth-like climate.

READ MORE: Astronomers discover 14 galaxies poised to collide and form colossal cluster

Naming rules

The names should be:

  • Between four and 16 characters in length in Latin alphabet (including spaces or punctuation)
  • Non-offensive
  • Not identical to, or too similar to, an existing name of an astronomical object.
  • Not be trademarked or a commercial product.
  • Not be the name of a living person or someone who died after 1919.
  • Not be a contrived (or invented) name or an acronym.

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