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!
CASCA
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Jesse Rogerson, PhD

As a passionate science communicator, Jesse Rogerson loves promoting science literacy to the public. He frequently represents the Canada Aviation and Space Museum on television and radio, social media, and at conferences. A trained and practicing astrophysicist, Jesse holds a PhD in observational astrophysics from York University, and publishes his research in peer-reviewed journals. Jesse enjoys riding his motorcycle, board games, and ultimate frisbee.