Want to name an exoplanet after your cat? IAU says dream on

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-04-12

It has been incredibly exciting to bring you the latest news on the hunt for planets outside our Solar System. Over the past few years, the planets we've spotted have gotten closer to Earth's size, closer to the Solar System, and far, far more numerous. There's almost nothing that could dull the excitement—except, perhaps, the planets' names. Monikers like KOI-135 b and HAT-P-5 b don't exactly inspire a sense of the mysterious unknown.

Even the International Astronomical Union (IAU) admits they're a bit dull. "While exoplanet names such as 16 Cygni Bb or HD 41004 Ab may seem boring when considering the names of planets in our own Solar System, the vast number of objects in our Universe—galaxies, stars, and planets to name just a few—means that a clear and systematic system for naming these objects is vital," the organization has noted. But at least one company has decided that clear and systematic is not its thing, and it has started selling the chance to name a planet.

Or rather nominate a name and download a certificate of said nomination. People can then vote on the nominees, with voting closing on Monday night. The company running the process says it donates some of its funds to astronomy research and education efforts.

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