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The IAU Isn’t Pleased With Uwingu’s Exoplanet Contest

As you might recall, Uwingu is holding a contest to name an exoplanet. People love naming stuff in space, but it has rarely been in the hands of the people to decide. It’s typically left to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to assign designations. It’s pretty much their job. They’re not too keen on Uwingu taking money from folks in order to give a name to an exoplanet that won’t be officially recognized as such, and they’ve said as much in a recent statement.

See, there’s already a naming system in place, and the IAU is pretty adamant about it being enforced going forward. In short, if we all started naming exoplanets whatever we feel like, then they’d be difficult to keep track of and so on and so forth. That’s more or less the party line, it seems. Honestly? “[A] clear and systematic system for naming these objects” is exactly what’s needed, so I don’t blame them for resisting the call for names.

Here’s the relevant bit about what’s clearly the Uwingu contest from the IAU’s release:

Recently, an organisation has invited the public to purchase both nomination proposals for exoplanets, and rights to vote for the suggested names. In return, the purchaser receives a certificate commemorating the validity and credibility of the nomination. Such certificates are misleading, as these campaigns have no bearing on the official naming process — they will not lead to an officially-recognised exoplanet name, despite the price paid or the number of votes accrued.

On the other hand, they also note that they’ll talk with the folks on the IAU’s Extrasolar Planets commission as well as other IAU members about giving exoplanets popular names, and then they’ll make the results public on their site. Not to be negative or anything, but this comes off as a roundabout way of saying, “We’ll get some expert opinions on how to say ‘no’ to this.”

(IAU via Universe Today, images courtesy of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory and Amazon)

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