Canada’s Name the Exoplanet Contest!

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An drawing of students looking through a telescope and discussing different names for an exoplanet
You can help decide the name of an exoplanet!

Scientists have discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, aka exoplanets. Most of those planets have boring names consisting of letters and numbers that keep track of the star catalogue in which they are listed. Take, for example, planet HD 136418b. The "HD" refers to the Henry Draper Catalogue, the "136418" means the planet orbits the 136,418th star in the catalogue, and the "b" refers to it being the first planet discovered around that star (they don't use "a" because the star is considered the first object in the system). So while it's a boring name, it is effective in its organization.

But names like HD 136418b... they don't instill imagination and wonder. Can you imagine if we called the planets in our solar system in numerical order? In that case, we would just call Earth planet 3. Happily, the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) is running a contest to name exoplanet HD 136418b! The initial stage of the contest, which ran from late August to late September 2019, saw over 500 entries, which have now been narrowed down to just 4. Follow the link, and you can vote on your favourite!

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Canada’s Name the Exoplanet Contest!
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Jesse Rogerson, PhD

Jesse is a passionate scientist, educator, and science communicator. As an assistant professor at York University in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society, he teaches three classes: History of Astronomy, Introduction to Astronomy, and Exploring the Solar System. He frequently collaborates with the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and lends his expert voice to the Ingenium Channel. Jesse is an astrophysicist, and his research explores how super massive black holes evolve through time. Whether in the classroom, through social media, or on TV, he encourages conversations about how science and society intersect, and why science is relevant in our daily lives.