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IAU: No, You Can't Name That Exoplanet 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-died-and-made-you-president-of-planet-names dept.
astroengine writes "The International Astronomical Union (IAU) — the official body that governs the designations of all celestial bodies — in their capacity of purveyors of all things 'official' has deemed attempts at crowdsourcing names for exoplanets illegitimate. 'In the light of recent events, where the possibility of buying the rights to name exoplanets has been advertised, the International Astronomical Union wishes to inform the public that such schemes have no bearing on the official naming process,' writes Thierry Montmerle, General Secretary of the IAU in Paris, France. Although the 'schemes' are not specifically named, the most popular U.S.-based "exoplanet naming" group Uwingu appears to be the target of today's IAU statement. Set up by Alan Stern, planetary scientist and principal investigator for NASA's Pluto New Horizons mission, Uwingu encourages the public to nominate and vote (for a fee) on names for the slew of exoplanets steadily being discovered."
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IAU: No, You Can't Name That Exoplanet

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  • So what (Score:5, Informative)

    by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Friday April 12, 2013 @03:12PM (#43434735)

    You can name planets as you like. Whether you're understood or not depends on how many others follow your naming convention, of course.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why should we be putting money in Alan Stern's pocket? This process should either be free or 100% of fees should go to charity.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Why should we be putting money in Alan Stern's pocket?

        I went through the difficult process of checking out the FAQ on Uwingu's website :

        8. What kind of research, education, and exploration programs will Uwingu fund? Many kinds! Some will be strategically selected by Uwingu, and others will be proposed by scientists, educators, and others around the world and selected after peer review. To be responsive to the needs of researchers, educators, and others around the world involved in space work, Uwingu will b

    • by ron_ivi (607351)

      You can name planets as you like.

      Indeed.

      I'm hoping Uwingu issues a rebuttal saying that the IAU's names are "illegitimate" and not officially recognized by Uwingu.

    • I do not recognize the unsubstantiated claim of the IAU to name planets and other celestial bodies. I am therefore implementing my own naming convention. Starting with the first object to the left of the sun, they will be named TRW1, followed by TRW2 and so on until we run out of numbers. Thank you for listening.
  • Just like the bits, the names want to be free. Open source the naming of planets to wrest proprietary control of naming rights away from IAU.
  • Good luck stopping me; but besides that, as the number of them ramp up, we're going to have to change our naming methodologies anyways... probably to some compound lexical stuff, not unlike street addresses so that the same names can be used and reused and reused and not confuse anyone when spoken in proper context. Oh, a mission to Sol Terra Luna? Which one? Oh! The one over by way of Arcturus Region? You betcha! We'll have to define semiamorphous regions determined by medium shifts (voids, nebulae, rifts
    • by hde226868 (906048)
      the current naming system for stars is a.ready unique. The case that you are mentioning (alpha Lyrae etc.) is the so-called Bayer designation, that is a historic naming scheme for the around 1500 brightest stars. Official star names are NOT the Bayer names, but usually done according to their catalogue numbers. For example, my slashdot name, HDE 226868, is the donor star of the black hole Cygnus X-1, which happens to be number 226868 in the Henry Draper Extension catalogue. These names are unique. The IAU
      • by rubycodez (864176)

        not unique. there are quite a few catalogs in common use though, and moreover stars visible to the human eye already have many, many names. if a few hundred million internet users come up with a name for a star, of course that would, for the common people, overrule any catalog number the IAU makes. we don't call our elbow an olecranon either.

      • by emagery (914122)
        Yeah, and while a computer won't have any difficulty making a distinction between Swift J 164449.3+573451 and HDE 226868, a human will... then again, you could argue that we're only going to be getting out among the stars as a human-computer hybrid anyways... so maybe it'll be moot at that time. Until then, 3D lexical scope human recognizable naming mechanisms are going to have to replace the current methodolgies should we ever get the opportunity to move among them prior to such hybridizations.
      • by cusco (717999)
        Cool, thanks for that. I'd seen the names, but didn't know how the system worked.
      • by Dabido (802599)
        The IAU must consider you extremely important to have named a star after your slashdot name.
  • With the possibility of hundreds of billions of planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone, EVERYONE should get their own planet...
  • by marvinglenn (195135) on Friday April 12, 2013 @03:41PM (#43434951)
    So where's the IAU when I keep hearing this radio commercial for the bullshit "Internaltional Star Registry" from Rocky Mozell? Or did they already smack that one down, and all the suckers who keep giving him money to run commercials didn't get the memo?
    • They are right here [iau.org]. They are hardly a regulatory body, they can't enforce anything.

    • I love their, "Your name will be recorded in book form and registered at the US Copyright Office!"

      Holy Legitimacy, Batman!

      I've had relatives buy that shit for each other. I bit my tongue instead of laughing and saying they got ripped off by a scam.

  • If a billion people call a planet Bob, guess what, that planet is going to be called Bob regardless of whatever some US naming committee has to say about it.

    So all welcome Bob the newest exoplanet!

    • Re:Lol (Score:5, Informative)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday April 12, 2013 @04:02PM (#43435175)

      The International Astronomical Union gives astronomical objects their official names, by international agreement. They accept suggestions and proposals, but they do not sell naming rights.

      You can call astronomical objects whatever you want. The IAU is pointing out that paying someone for the privilege is kind of a dumb thing to do.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      people may refer to it as bob, but that won't be it's name. i.e. official designation.

  • buying a star (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 12, 2013 @03:44PM (#43434991) Journal
    It reminded me of the star naming schemes I read about decades ago. I checked to see what the IAU has to say about that [iau.org]. Whoever wrote that FAQ seems depressed at the sad state of intellect in commercial America.....
  • by Atrox666 (957601) on Friday April 12, 2013 @03:49PM (#43435051)

    These guys should have nothing to say about it. It should be the person who finds it gets naming rights, they earned it. If they want to sell their rights that should be their option too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The person who get there first should get to name it.

    • by Zadaz (950521) on Friday April 12, 2013 @04:15PM (#43435297)

      Yeah, but who's going to settle on a planet in orbit around Joe Smith's Giant Cock And Balls, or Spectacular Illumination By GoDaddy.com?

      And when we finally meet the aliens from Tostitos III, how do we explain that to them?

      • by bradorsomething (527297) on Friday April 12, 2013 @05:05PM (#43435833)

        And when we finally meet the aliens from Tostitos III, how do we explain that to them?

        Over nachos?

      • by dwye (1127395)

        And when we finally meet the aliens from Tostitos III, how do we explain that to them?

        Well, assuming that they do not have a 95% die-off as a consequence of meeting us, we will probably be stuck with their names, as long as they can be pronounced by non-!Kung humans (and differentiated from similar names -- if it matters terribly what the levels of the 6th vs. 7th overtones of the fundamental tone are, so that only those with perfect pitch and hearing can use their names, we will make up our own).

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You don't know modern astronomy, do you?

      A) Names are created in such a way that people can find that star again. 'Bob's Star' tells you what, exactly?
      B) most star found aren't observable with the naked eye
      C) Its' a scientific process. As such it need a logic framework whenever possible.
      D) There are machines in space that catalog 100,000s of stars. Who names those?

      People like you are killing science and progress.

    • These guys should have nothing to say about it. It should be the person who finds it gets naming rights, they earned it. If they want to sell their rights that should be their option too.

      How does this make any sense? New planets are found because dozens of people munge data from dozens of telescopes and detectors and discover fluctuations that imply planets of certain sizes. This isn't some bearded "professor" looking through a little eye piece proclaiming "I have discovered a new planet!" That's why the astronomical community as a whole controls things like names, so everyone knows what they are talking about, especially when they re-discover the same thing, or get better data on someth

      • by dkf (304284)

        There's no vanity naming any more.

        Get a starship or space probe to the planet in question and then we'll talk names. Right now, a catalog index is far more useful. (We're not cats, so "I see it, it's mine" doesn't apply.)

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      the person who invents an use for the discovery and can get others to use his documentation on the subject gets to name the planets.

      so they can sell their rights for naming it if they discover a planet.. but.. they got no legal right to keep me from calling that planet hellhole-3.

    • by cusco (717999)
      So NASA gets the naming rights to 99.9 percent of the exoplanets? Since the congresscritters don't seem to want to fund them maybe they should sell the naming rights.
  • Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday April 12, 2013 @03:50PM (#43435057) Journal

    Yes, it does seem like there should be some rigor to the process. I don't want my descendants emigrating to the planet "My Hairy Balls"* because I was drunk and happened to have some spare cash lying around that day.

    *although it would, perhaps, be a poetic illustration of the circle of life.

  • by drwho (4190) on Friday April 12, 2013 @03:52PM (#43435063) Homepage Journal

    A while back, some people thought it might be good to name the potentially habitable planets. Therefore, http://www.sinister.com/names_of_potentially_habitable_planets.html

  • My Social Studies teacher mentioned that there was so much black market trading in colonial America that we decided to base our currency on the Spanish dollar [wikipedia.org] and "centavo" instead of the pound.

    Official is what people use. If something isn't official and enough people use it, "official" changes to compensate; as in, for example, dictionaries.

    There are a lot of groups and organizations that declare themselves the authorities in certain areas and set up rules and regulations largely by fiat, with no democrati

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The IAU is an internationally recognized science group with rules and government recognition. THEY are the people who name bodies in space with a logical process.

      Comparing the to the DEA and TSA just tells us you will pollute any conversation with your pet beliefs about the DEA and TSA

      • The IAU is an internationally recognized science group with rules and government recognition. THEY are the people who name bodies in space with a logical process.

        I'm sure science and perhaps the government will use those names. However, if a private company would happen to make star charts with lists of planets and sell the naming rights*, publish and sell those charts to the common people with the sold naming rights not agreed upon by the IAU to the point that the common people use the private names rather than the science names, they will be come the de facto "real" names of those planets. The science names would just be like the science names of so many other thi

  • First off IAU has no authority to tell the public what they can and can't "officially" name anything neither do they have the right to redefine terms used by the public for thousands of years such as "planet". If they are seen as a legitimate authority within their little club good for them.

    Second how can any of us be certain these exoplanets are actually planets since I doubt we can really tell whether they have yet to clear their neighborhood?

    Finally spending money to name/vote on planets is a fairly see

    • by dwye (1127395)

      First off IAU has no authority to tell the public what they can and can't "officially" name anything neither do they have the right to redefine terms used by the public for thousands of years such as "planet".

      Thousands of years ago, the Moon and the Sun were planets, and Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were blurs below the level of visibility, even Tycho Brache's eyes. Pluto was a planet for less time than the Buddha was on the Calendar Of Saints (before the Christians actually talked to Buddhists, rather than hearing of him third or worse hand), so I can grimace and bear it.

      Second how can any of us be certain these exoplanets are actually planets since I doubt we can really tell whether they have yet to clear their neighborhood?

      Now THAT is a good one! Let them be hoisted on their own plutard!

      Finally spending money to name/vote on planets is a fairly seedy activity leaving me with a low opinion of both organizations.

      Actually, the IAU no more names these "planets" than does the IUPAC "name" fr

  • If you believe that uwingu can sell you the right to name a planet, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you can name!

  • Shouldn't we ask whoever is living there what the name is?
  • Well, if that won't work, I've got the naming rights to a bridge in Brooklyn... How much money did you say you have?

    Oh lord won't you buy me a planet of my own.
    My friends all have Galaxie 500s,
    I must make amends.
    .
    I'm counting on you, I.A.U., please don't let me down.
    My boyfriend says you won't sell him a star
    for my pretty name..
    .
    Prove that he loves me and sell him the next round orb,
    Oh honey, won't you buy me an exoplanet to terraform ?
    .
    [hmm, i'll work on the rest of the lyrics later... gia]

  • ... do something special: name an exoplanet after someone.

    (Maybe it's only funny because on my way to work I used to drive past that outfit that names stars for you, registered the name in a book at the Library of Congress, and gave you a hokey star map so you could find it.)

  • As has every other science fiction writer who writes space opera or interstellar sf. Some of those planets might even exist ;-)

    Mind, even though several of us might agree that there's a, say, Delta Pavonis III, it's unlikely that we'll agree on the non-designatory name (unless we're writing in the same shared universe). Frank Herbert called it Caladan in Dune, I call it Verdigris in my T-Space series (it's green with skyweed). Other authors have named planets in the Delta Pavonis system without being

    • by isorox (205688)

      Btw, the current naming convention for exoplanets is $PRIMARY-b, -c, -d .. etc in order of discovery, where the primary star is considered 'a'. SF conventional designation is I, II, III, IV etc (roman numerals) in order of average distance from the primary -- which assumes we know all the planets in a star's system.

      And it all goes wrong when Ceti Alpha VI blows up

  • by SteveR (12556)

    I say we name all exoplanets "Pluto", just for spite.

  • Next you'll be telling me that my deeds to lunar real estate are not legally enforceable. :P

  • by stackOVFL (1791898)
    I'll get excited about what we're naming it when I CAN GO SEE IT. Where's my flipping star ship you bunch of physics wienies. I don't even have a flying freak'n car yet. Lazy bastards.

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