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Public To Vote On Names For Exoplanets 127

An anonymous reader writes In response to the increased interest by the public in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the world authority that names objects in space, is giving the public a chance to name up to 30 planets from a pre-selected group of 305 exoplanets. "Before you get excited about naming HAT-P-7b after your first pet goldfish, it's worth taking a look at the restrictions the IAU places on its minor planet names. The 16 characters or less must be 'pronounceable (in as many languages as possible)' and non-offensive in any language or culture. The names of living persons are verboten, pet names are 'discouraged,' and you can't use a name that is commercial or has political, military, or religious connotations." The proposed names can be submitted by astronomy clubs and non-profit organizations interested in astronomy and votes will be cast by the public from across the world.
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Public To Vote On Names For Exoplanets

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  • by Mistakill ( 965922 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @06:42PM (#47445081)

    ... non-offensive in any language or culture...

    So they have seen what 4chan can do?

    • Re:Smart move... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @06:52PM (#47445129)
      You underestimate the situation. You've got 4chan. You've got the Star Wars crowd trying to name them Hoth. You've got the Trekkies trying to name it Vulcan. You've got the scientologists trying to name it who the hell even knows what. You've got MS haters trying to name it Windows 9 (because it's so far away). This is like the internet version of World War 3 because there are so many super powers involved.
      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        They should all be named Colbert 1 through Colbert 305.
      • Forget all that, this is the internet. These planets are all probably going to be named something akin to "Hitler was right". Mountain Dew Competion []
        • You joke. But the names are probably going to go through some sort of machine filtering that'll eliminate Fuckeroo, Sexoid, or Goatse then vetted by a panel of religious and cultural sensitivity "experts" and everybody else with a loud mouth or a big stick to eliminate names likely to get on somebody's goat like Tiananmen, Bin Laden, Zion, etc. Only then does the Internets get to vote to short list of approved names, pretty much like a Slashdot poll.

          • Well then let's name it Slashdot.
          • you can't use a name that is commercial or has political, military, or religious connotations

            Like Jupiter? Or Mercury? All the planet names are names of Gods. Even some constellations have names of demi-gods and the ilk.

            • i don't think dead religions count... unless you think people still worship those gods... think we might have to go with norse mythology next, branch out into chinese... this could get interesting and fun.

      • Maybe they'll split the difference and go with Vader Did Nothing Wrong.

      • by Anonymous Coward


      • Don't forget the /.ers. Expected names: "frist post", "goetse", "get off my lawn" and "insensitive clod"...
      • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

        Vulcan [] definitely has "religious connotations".

      • You've got MS haters trying to name it Windows 9 (because it's so far away)

        Ah, but you forget that it potentially habitable.

  • The creatures who inhabit the World you're naming already call it something else and will not likely be offended if you pay to name it Nemo.
    • I'm pretty sure that the Americas were named differently once. Well, the native population will simply have to get used to a new name once we go there for the oil.
      • America's like the new Godwin here lately.
      • Since no one people had knowledge of the extent and geography of north and south america or their relation to the other continents before, it wasn't really called anything else.
      • I'm pretty sure that the Americas were named differently once. Well, the native population will simply have to get used to a new name

        Actually, untravelled natives do not usually have a name for where they live - they don't need one, it is just "here". "Britain" was so named by the Romans, not the Britons. "England" means the "Land of the Angles", not the sort of name you give to your own place but is what a non-Angle would say.

        In the UK, the most common names for rivers are "Ouse" and "Avon". They simply mean "River" in old languages. When I was a kid I lived by the River Wandle. Unless you were explaining it to an outsider, no-

  • Connotations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @06:51PM (#47445125)

    No religious connotations. So names like "Jupiter" and "Mars" and "Pluto" are right out. Even names like "Charon" are verboten.


    • Mars is a chocolate bar, Pluto is Mickey Mouse's dog. On Jupiter, Wikipedia has a lengthy disambiguation list. Take your pic.

    • No religious connotations. So names like "Jupiter" and "Mars" and "Pluto" are right out. Even names like "Charon" are verboten.


      Even though, to an athiest, they may seem the same, there is definitely a difference between religion and mythology. As far as I know, Jupiter, Mars, and Pluto (and Charon) have mythological connotations, but not religious. I'm not aware of anyone who still worships or believes in the Roman (or Greek) gods.

      • "Mythology" is the polite term for a religion's corpse.

        The distinction between religions that are dead and ones that aren't is certainly relevant; but I do get the impression that some prefer to imagine that 'myths' have always been somehow fundamentally different than 'religions', rather than being different now because some of the 'religions' didn't survive.
        • *cheers*

          Very astute of you, Fuzzy^2 Fungus....

        • yeah but some corpses lived better lives than others. I grew up on the greek myths, those stories were baller. If religion were that kick ass, i'd be in robes. I mean the qualitative difference for me was that the old gods were godS.

          they were fallible, they were petty, they were vain, they were spiteful cruel, loving and warm. Humanity's foibles at their most extreme. :)

          I imagine Zeus will never die, he's too good a character... but the current crop of whippersnappers?

          • Oh, classical mythology is great fun (though there are some under-appreciated competitors in the running: some of the fertile crescent stuff is...strange indeed... and anyone who doesn't enjoy the Norse or Aztec stuff has no appreciation of the sanguinary things of life). As for the contemporary stuff, The Official Version of most monotheisms is pretty dry (once you assert a single supreme god your theologians usually discover that you've overdetermined yourself out of any sort of real character drama); but
      • I'm not aware of anyone who still worships or believes in the Roman (or Greek) gods.

        I do, in some way. I think of Apollo and, especially, of Pallas Athena as of certain virtues / skills in human shape.

      • When most of them were named that way the religions were not dead yet.

      • I'm not aware of anyone who still worships or believes in the Roman (or Greek) gods.

        However, at the time that they were given these names - in the millennium or so BCE - essentially everyone in the (known, then) world followed those gods and their cognates, and the names of the gods were assigned to "wandering lights in the sky" (that's what the Greek root of "planet" means) appropriate to the personality of the gods (fast-moving Mercury, the messenger ; blood-coloured Mars, the god of war ...), and in a ve

  • IAU authority (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Before the whiners comes to explain us IAU has no more authority to name astral bodies than anyone else.

    If you're in the US: the IAU authority comes from the National Academies joining the IAU. The National Academies got its authority from the US president in 1963 when he signed the Act of Incorporation which created the National Academies.

  • To atone... and hide our shame.

  • Nice (Score:5, Funny)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday July 13, 2014 @07:04PM (#47445185)

    I predict they will be named Colbert1 to Colbert30.

  • How about Blaeu. Sufficiently enough meaning 'blue' (and thus earth-like), while deficiently enough a real living person's name, yet plenty enough a deceased's
    name who did plenty of work in cartoghraphy of the globe you land your feet on every morning.

  • There's like a hundred gazillion exoplanets in just our galaxy. This cries out for a numerical scheme like the star number from a USNO catalog plus a suffix.

    Names are just wrong for this. There just aren't that many names.

  • Campaign to have a star named poitot.

    upvote if you get it.
  • Ceti Alpha V!

    (Sorry, just being a geek...)

    In reality, I think it's cool that they are going to give names to a few.

    In the end, it seems it will wind up to be like trying to assign dns to every possible address in IPv6.

    Nice to think about, makes things seem much more in scale, but it's always going to be less than a drop in the oceans.

    • Ceti Alpha V!

      (Sorry, just being a geek...)

      Of course, that would only be meaningful if Menkar, also known as Alpha Ceti, is discovered to have at least 5 planets.

      I would suggest Urectum, but that is already reserved for use in 2620.

  • Always a con (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @07:53PM (#47445377)
    These offers to let the public 'vote' are nothing but promotions to get people to visit websites, etc. In the end, the names will be picked from an internal list that is curated by insiders.
  • by UltraZelda64 ( 2309504 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @08:07PM (#47445437)

    Under this criteria, not a single planet (or former planet) in this solar system should keep its name, as pretty much all of them run the risk of offending someone who prays to a different diety than the ones that the ancient Romans and Greeks did. Hell, while they're at it, they might as well go through all the astronomical catalogs and weed out all these pesky offensive "religious" names, because they're all over the place. It's pathetic how far people will go these days to attempt to not "offend" even a fly...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I remember the SPORE game had an algorithm which automatically created names, as there are so many planets in the galaxy you could just simply use that one.

  • The proceeds would go directly to astronomical research.

  • This (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    won't end well . . .

  • after that, have at it.
  • Can we use "Ceti Alpha Six" on a planet orbiting a star not in the constellation "Ceti"

  • Goatse I, Goatse II, Goatse III, Goatse IV...

  • No one said you have to live on Bob.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @11:17PM (#47446279)
    You go to the IAU website and it's written in english. No language selections for non-english speakers. (Even does better than this). What does the "I" in IAU stand for, again?

    You go to the website - same deal.

    You read the rules and all submissions (max 250 words) must be in english, too.

    Given that this is about astronomical objects that are so far away, to them The Earth doesn't even register as a blip. Therefore to limit the naming process to one single earthly language seems like an extraordinary limitation. Especially when you consider that so many stars have Arabic names - couldn't we be a bit more inclusive?

    • Time for a fun trivia question. What language is the majority of the internet written in? (it's a slight majority but it's a majority)
      • But it's not about majorities (or minorities, come to that). it's about inclusivity.

        If you're going to hold a "world wide" contest, then to not care enough to provide even a few of the most popular non-english languages, seems parochial, if not downright ignorant. You'd think that among all the IAU members, some individuals would have sufficient command of some other languages to be able to offer some alternative translations.

        Or did it simply bot occur to the IAU that there may be a few billion non-engl

        • You're placing too much value on this.

          A bunch of people will assign random names to arbitrary objects nobody will ever see. Using a dubious system which may or may not be representative of the populace, after it's been vetted to be inoffensive, boring and tidy.

          Name them, don't name them, number them, don't number them -- this is purely a publicity stunt, and will have no impact on your life, or anybody else's life for that matter.

          It's like naming cats, it doesn't really serve any purpose except to the peop

      • by Anonymous Coward

        HTML, but incrasingly Javascript. These far outweigh any of th content, and bots consumu over 60% of the traffic. Time to name shit with function names and CSS colors?

    • English is the international language of science. Anyone who wants to be well-recognized in the global scientific community must publish in English. While it is not the first language of many in the World, it is an extremely dynamic & adaptive language and has become the standard. Unlike more culturally "pure" languages, English readily absorbs words from other languages where no equivalent English word exists, with little resistance.
    • Because of programming. If keywords, etc. are in english in programming languages, why not have english planet names? I.e. include, using, new, delete, if, else, etc. []
      • Only the submissions have to be in english, not the names. OP was wrong in this point, I find no hint in the rules that forbid an arabic name. On the contrary:

        Proposed names should be:
        16 characters or less in length.
        Preferably one word.
        Pronounceable (in some language)

        I think they can address the astronomic organisations in english only, but would do better (nice gesture of being global) if they offered at least the most used languages. You can argue that (?amateur) Scientific organisations, particularly in astronomy, which is highly international (the european(!) telescopes are in chile), usually have the needed k

    • English is the world's second language. Moreover it is the language of science. What other language would you choose for a worldwide contest? Some obscure local language? Or perhaps the slender budget of IAU should be spent on translating their website into 75 different languages? Ridiculous.
    • Let's all gather here, on this #1 geek news website and protest. Because how dares the IAU only implement this pointless naming platform exclusively in English! Just be careful to only use Latin characters in your protest. At least for now, because after 15+ years of development we might be close to Unicode support - who knows!
  • Otherwise we'd end up with Dickworld Delta.
    • The restrictions say:

      and non-offensive in any language or culture

      Note: "any" not "all".
      Now, IANAL, but I think your fears may come true.

  • Last time I remember the public being involved in a name, we ended up calling a whale Mr. Splashy Pants.

    So, perhaps we'll end up with a name like Gassyball of Frolics or something, but I'm sure the combined might of B3ta and 4chan will manage better.
  • So, I guess I can't name the next gas giant "Obama"?

  • []
    I hope this continues like this. For it is funny :)
  • I vote for Urectum!
  • ...After characters from Game of Thrones.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN