The Names of 32 Planets Will Be Decided by the Internet

Chs87 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
Chs87 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0 / Chs87 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

When mankind first started discovering planets beyond our own, we named them for fantastic gods and goddesses. Since then, we’ve found a whole lot more planets outside our solar system—at least a thousand of them—and we’ve grown a little lazy in the naming department. Titles like HD 209458 b are obviously chosen more for practical reasons than romantic ones, but that’s something the International Astronomical Union hopes to change.

In order to tackle the long list of exoplanets in need of new names, the IAU has decided to enlist the help of the internet. The NameExoWorlds competition, which opened last Tuesday and will run until the end of October, calls for anyone with access to the internet to vote on the names for 32 of the extrasolar planets discovered in the last 25 years.

The internet doesn’t have a stellar track record when it comes to democratic decision-making, which is likely why the IAU has pre-selected the options for us. Sure, Tsubakurame, Poltergeist, and Carousel Hell B all have a nice ring to them, but it’s always amusing to see what the voices of the internet come up with when left to their own devices. And with Stephen Colbert’s return to television right around the corner, you know we would have ended up with at least one planet named after him.

[h/t: Gizmodo]