Meet Dulcinea, Poltergeist and 29 Other Planets Just Named By Popular Vote

Meet Dulcinea, Poltergeist and 29 Other Planets Just Named By Popular Vote

Earlier this year, the International Astronomical Union asked us to vote on the names for 32 exoplanets orbiting 15 stars. This could have been a trainwreck, but the planet christening actually went pretty smoothly. Now, with half a million votes tallied from 182 countries, a handful of celestial bodies have shiny new appellations.

The NameExoWorlds contest, which ran from July through the end of October, marked the very first time the notoriously tight-lipped IAU decided to open up the planet-naming process to the public. Sort of. First, there was a semi-private submission round, in which schools, universities, and planetariums were asked to suggest names. This was a calculated move, intended to keep the list as small and profanity-free as possible, but still, there were a few cringeworthy submissions, including “Rock’n’Roll Star” and “Starry Bunnies”.

All in all, the IAU received 274 nominations from 45 countries around the world. It was these names that the public had several months to vote on.

Thankfully, the 14 star and 31 planet names unveiled today don’t include anything blatantly offensive. (With its overriding power, the IAU did decide to annul the vote for one system, the star Tau Boötis and its planet Tau Boötis b, because the winning name “was judged not to conform with the IAU rules for naming exoplanets”. I wonder if it was Starry Bunnies.)

The newly adopted names include a variety of mythological figures, famous scientists, fictional characters, and ancient cities from cultures around the world. If I had to pick one system whose new names really click, it’d be PSR 1257+12, a dying stellar fragment with three rocky worlds in tow. The star is now called “Lich” after the undead creature from Greek and Norse mythology that commands armies of the dead. Its celestial subjects are “Poltergeist,” “Phobetor” (an ancient Greek personification of nightmares) and “Draugr” (an Icelandic zombie). This, my friends, is democracy at its finest.

Here’s the full list, with original names and star or planet designation in parentheses:

  • Veritate (14 Andromedae, Star)
  • Spe (14 Andromedae b, Planet)
  • Musica (18 Delphini, Star)
  • Arion (18 Delphini b, Planet)
  • Fafnir (42 Draconis, Star)
  • Orbitar (42 Draconis b, Planet)
  • Chalawan (47 Ursae Majoris, Star)
  • Taphao Thong (47 Ursae Majoris b, Planet)
  • Taphao Kaew (47 Ursae Majoris c, Planet)
  • Helvetios (51 Pegasi, Star)
  • Dimidium (51 Pegasi b, Planet)
  • Copernicus (55 Cancri, Star)
  • Galileo (55 Cancri b, Planet)
  • Brahe (55 Cancri c, Planet)
  • Lippershey (55 Cancri d, Planet)
  • Janssen (55 Cancri e, Planet)
  • Harriot (55 Cancri f, Planet)
  • Amateru (Ain b, Planet)
  • Hypatia (Edasich b, Planet)
  • Ran (epsilon Eridani, Star)
  • AEgir (epsilon Eridani b, Planet)
  • Tadmor (Errai b, Planet)
  • Dagon (Fomalhaut b, Planet)
  • Tonatiuh (HD 104985, Star)
  • Meztli (HD 104985 b, Planet)
  • Ogma (HD 149026, Star)
  • Smertrios (HD 149026 b, Planet)
  • Intercrus (HD 81688, Star)
  • Arkas (HD 81688b, Planet)
  • Cervantes (mu Arae, Star)
  • Quijote (mu Arae b, Planet)
  • Dulcinea (mu Arae c, Planet)
  • Rocinante (mu Arae d, Planet)
  • Sancho (mu Arae e, Planet)
  • Thestias (Pollux b, Planet)
  • Lich (PSR 1257+12, Star)
  • Draugr (PSR 1257+12 b, Planet)
  • Poltergiest (PSR 1257+12 c, Planet)
  • Phobetor (PSR 1257+12 d, Planet)
  • Titawin (upsilon Andromedae, Star)
  • Saffar (upsilon Andromedae b, Planet)
  • Samh (upsilon Andromedae c, Planet)
  • Majriti (upsilon Andromedae d, Planet)
  • Libertas (xi Aquilae, Star)
  • Fortitudo (xi Aquilae b)


Images via IAU