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December 25, 2015


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"Ran" is an unfortunate name for Epsilon Eridani, since "Rana" is the traditional name for Delta Eridani.

While I do like getting the public involved with astronomy and exoplanet discovery, I'm extremely ambivalent over the naming scheme: I can't help but feel the discoverers ought to have the right to name them first and have the choice whether or not to let the public do the naming instead.

As for Barsoom, it depends on what the exoplanet is like. :)

What's the point of making an infographic too small to read?


Better version there.

Infographic still looks unreadable to me. I'm with Stephanie. Who came up with that?

I'm also with you about naming. Have any discoverers tried to name their planet? I'd imagine they could force the IAU to comply.

There have been a couple cases . They've been rejected. HD 209458b as Osiris, the defunct Gliese 581g (Zarmina) and 51 Pegasi b (was named Bellerophon, now renamed).

Well. That's not acceptable. I would recommend that the next group name a planet "Reagan" and get Congress to strip the IAU of its authority to name planets. Sure, it will only technically apply to the United States. But in reality?

We would have to live with a planet named Reagan. But I'd be okay with that.

Alternatively, and more realistically, some discoverers should simply sue. (See Le Verrier, Urbain, for precedent. Or even Observatory, Lowell.) I would dearly like to hear from a lawyer about whether they would have a case.

Actually, Christ, you wouldn't even need to sue. You just need a winning PR campaign: "The IAU does not consider itself as having a monopoly on the naming of celestial objects — anyone can in theory adopt names the way they choose. However, given the publicity and emotional investment associated with these discoveries, worldwide recognition is important and the IAU offers its unique experience for the benefit of a successful public naming process."


So, screw 'em. Fire up them social media engines, get Dimidium (seriously?) changed back to Bellerophon, which is a much cooler name.

Based on that last bit you may as well strike out "REAL OFFICIAL" from the headline of this post then since it seems that officially any name goes.

Point taken. Sadly, though, despite disavowing the authority, the IAU seems to have become the "real official" arbiter of extraplanetary place names.

A well-organized campaign on social media and among key politicians could very easily change the norm back to letting the discoverer name the object. As long as it wasn't abused, that norm would stick.

Will, you probably know better who should get this suggestion.

The people to reach out to are the original discoverers. They are the ones who ought to start the protest. I have my doubts they'll want to get into a scandal at this point. The disaster of Geoff Marcy has people twitchy about stirring up stuff right now.

The reaction seems to be picking up a bit of strength.


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