The International Astronomical Union announced this week the names of 14 stars and 31 exoplanets, all previously unnamed.
The stars and exoplanets (planets which orbit stars other than our own) were part of an international contest in which people from 182 countries cast 573,242 votes for their favorites among a list of 274 proposed names. These were originally submitted by astronomy buffs and cosmology professionals, from university professors to planetarium employees and astronomy clubs. The resulting list is quite respectable, with namesakes appearing in honor of scientists, literary characters, ancient cities and the words of dead languages.
Sorry, no Benedict Cumberbatch the Planet.
Of the winning names, the biggest share were submitted from Europe, followed by Asia-Pacific (defined as Australia, Japan and Thailand). Those who originally proposed the winning names will be given a plaque and the honor of directly naming a minor planet (without the name being put to a vote). The contest was overseen by the succinctly titled International Astronomical Union Executive Committee Working Group on the Public Naming of Planets and Planetary Satellites.
Winning names include Pegasi, Pollux b, 18 Delphini, 42 Draconis, and the truly inspired HD 104985.
Voting concluded on Halloween of this year, but the names were not announced until this week, in part because of deliberation over the name of one ExoWorld, whose winning name is tau Boötis. According to the IAU's press release, tau Boötis "was judged not to conform with the IAU rules for naming exoplanets." This may reference a rule stating that new names cannot be "too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object," as there is already an exoplanet named tau Boötis b.
A new competition is soon to be announced for the renaming of tau Boötis. Names must be 16 or fewer characters, inoffensive, copyright-free, and can't be names of anyone alive, or any pets — even dead ones.
No Old Yeller Star, either? I'm out.