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The IAU Exoplanet Names

December 15th, 2015


If nothing else, the extrasolar planets comprise a thoroughly alien cohort, albeit one that is hitched awkwardly to a naming scheme of utilitarian expedience: Tres-4b, Gliese 876e, HD 149026b, and so forth.

When it comes to exoplanets, I’m somewhat chagrined to realize that I fall into the old timer category, and so predictably, back in the old days, I stuck up for the conservative, default naming convention. In this post on exoplanet names back in 2008, I wrote:

A sequence of letters and numbers carries no preconception, underscoring the fact that these worlds are distant, alien, and almost wholly unknown — K2 is colder and more inaccessible than Mt. McKinley, Vinson Massif or Everest.

The International Astronomical Union, however, just issued official crowdsourced names for 31 exoplanets.

Some of them might take a some getting used to. Fortitudo, Orbitrar, Intercrus. “Son, that’s not 51 Peg b, that’s Dimidium.”

So will the names come into general use? I’ve set up a prediction market at our new website Metaculus to determine whether or not it’s likely:


What do you think? Sign up and make your prediction count…

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