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The James Webb Space Telescope is using infrared light to reveal otherwise invisible aspects of the universe – and capturing stunning imagery in the process.
Among the wonders it’s discovering and observing are exoplanetary systems, which each consist of a planet outside of our solar system and its host star, and many of them are in need of a name.
The International Astronomical Union, the organization in charge of naming celestial objects, is launching the NameExoWorlds 2022 Competition to give the public a chance to christen some of the first exoplanetary systems to be seen by the telescope.
The IAU wants this to be a collaborative affair, so participants must create a team composed of teachers, students, astronomy enthusiasts, or professional or amateur astronomists.
Once the team selects its favorite names for one exoplanet and its host star, they are required to host a community outreach event that teaches the public about exoplanets. Only then can the team submit a written and video proposal that includes the names and justifications for their choices.
The video cannot be more than three minutes long, and the essay should not exceed 300 words. The team is also required to write a report no longer than 300 words on their public outreach initiative, which could be a talk by a scientist on exoplanet discoveries, and submit photos or video of the event.
Submissions can be made through this form.
If you were hoping to name a planet after yourself, you’re out of luck.
Naming an exoplanetary system is a huge responsibility, so the IAU set forth a list of guidelines to follow.
To begin with, the names should have long-standing cultural, geographic or historical significance. Indigenous names are encouraged, but any team proposing one must be led by a member of an Indigenous community.
Additionally, the name of the exoplanet and its host star need to follow the same theme, meaning they must be related in some way.
Teams cannot submit names of people, pets or organizations. Any terms related to political, military or religious activities are also not allowed.
The public can submit their names through November 11, 2022.
National vetting processes will take place between November 15 and December 15, 2022, and each country will select one proposal along with two backups. Afterward, an international committee will review the submissions and choose one for each exoplanet between December 16, 2022, and March 16, 2023.
The winning names will be announced on March 20, 2023.