Children at German schools and kindergartens have been asked to think of possible names for an exoplanet and its star in the Camelopardis (Giraffe) constellation as part of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union.
A jury will choose five suggestions from the children and amateur astronomy groups, and these proposals will then be voted on from October 10 to November 10 in an online poll in which everyone in Germany can participate.
Entries can be submitted at: www.exoplanet-benennen.de
Giving a real name to an exoplanet — a planet circling another star than our sun — is rare and has only occurred once before, in 2015. At present, the planet and its star are known by the unromantic — and unwieldy — titles of HD 32518b and HD 32518, respectively.
The planet, which has around three times the mass of Jupiter, rotates around its star every 157.5 days. The star, which can be found near the Pole Star, is sometimes visible even to the naked eye. It is a red giant with a diameter 10 times that of our sun, even though it has roughly the same mass.
The exoplanet naming is part of an international event run by the IAU called NameExoWorlds.
It is the first time that Germany has been given its "own" planet to name.