Press Release

Space enthusiasts are being given the rare opportunity to name a planet

By SpaceRef Editor
November 6, 2014
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The University of Leicester has joined forces with its local newspaper to give members of the public a unique opportunity – the chance to name a planet and its star.
The University has registered as one of a number of groups who are eligible to name one of 20-30 planets, and their host stars, in a unique competition organised by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
The scheme gives members of the public the chance to name the newly discovered ExoWorlds (which have all been identified and confirmed since 2008) and is expected to attract a lot of interest from around the world.
In partnership with the Leicester Mercury, the University is asking people to come up with names, according to a set of rules, and submit them to a panel of experts and then to a public vote.
The Mercury will gather all the suggestions in the first instance. Then a panel of experts from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy will whittle them down into a shortlist and Mercury readers will vote for their favourite.
The chosen name will then be sent to the IAU and a worldwide vote will determine the 20-30 winners. The final names are due to be revealed in August 2015.
Professor Martin Barstow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the University’s College of Science and Engineering and President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “Twenty years ago, we had no direct evidence for the existence of any planets outside our own Solar System.
“Since then, advances in astronomy have allowed us to detect thousands of planets orbiting other stars.
“Most of these are too distant for us to ever be able to study them in detail, but in the next decade those nearest to us will start to give up their secrets: which ones can support life and are there signs of life on any of these.
“At the moment, the system for naming these planets is highly technical and the International Astronomical Union (the only body that can decide on the names of astronomical objects) has launched a project to give more accessible names to some of these new planets.
“This will be the first ever opportunity for the public to make suggestions for new planet names and then to vote for their choice.”
The opportunity to send in names is not yet open as a deadline for the entries has not been set – although it is expected to be some time in December.
However, schools, groups, clubs and individuals should start thinking about what names they wanted to suggest now, as the window to submit the names is likely to be short.
Each idea should be submitted with a detailed justification as why that name was chosen – some examples will be available when the competition officially opens.
Once the IAU has set a deadline, the Mercury will officially announce the start of the campaign and hopefully by this time next year Leicester will have named a distant alien world.
Leicester Mercury Editor Kevin Booth said: “It’s great to work with the University of Leicester on such a unique project and we’re very excited about giving readers and people in the city and county an opportunity to be part of history and name an alien planet.
“We’ll probably never get the chance to do anything like this again, so we should definitely make the most of it.”
For all the competition details visit:
What names can be submitted?

Proposed names should be:
16 characters or less in length
Preferably one word
Not too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object
Proposed names should not be:
Names of pet animals
Names of a purely or principally commercial nature
Names of individuals, places or events principally known for political, military or religious activities
Names of living individuals
Only names that are not protected by trademarks or other forms of intellectual property claims may be proposed.


Notes to editors:
For more information contact Professor Martin Barstow at: or on tel: +44 (0)116 252 3492                                
University of Leicester Press Office Contacts:   
Ellen Rudge
News and Events Officer
Tel: 0116 229 7467
Peter Thorley
Corporate News Officer
Tel: 0116 252 2415

SpaceRef staff editor.