What is the naming competition?

As part of their centenary celebrations, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is organising a global competition called Name Exoworlds. Launching in September 2019 and as part of this worldwide project, the UK has the unique opportunity to give a popular name to a selected exoplanet and its host star.

In recent years, astronomers have discovered thousands of planets and planetary systems orbiting around nearby stars. Some are small and rocky like the Earth, whilst others are gas giants like Jupiter.

It is now believed that most stars in the Universe could have planets orbiting them and that some of them may have physical characteristics that resemble those of the Earth. The sheer number of stars in the Universe, resulting in potentially countless planets, along with the ubiquity of compounds that are beneficial to the presence and growth of microorganisms, suggests that extra-terrestrial life may be likely.

extrasolar exoplanets competition
IAU competition

What is IAU100?

International cooperation in astronomy was not new when the International Astronomical Union or IAU was founded in 1919. Astronomers had been visiting each other and exchanging data for many centuries. This new IAU was part of a grand reorganisation of international science after the First World War.

Today, one hundred years later, the IAU still retains its mission to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation; this includes research, communication, education and development. Its individual members are professional astronomers from all over the world, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, and active in professional research and education in astronomy. The IAU has over 13700 individual members in 107 countries worldwide. In addition, the IAU collaborates with various scientific organizations all over the world.

The IAU 100th anniversary provides a wonderful opportunity to highlight to the world the fantastic science, technology and inspiration that astronomy has brought us over the past century. To commemorate this milestone, the IAU has organised a year-long celebration to increase awareness of astronomical discoveries as well as to support and improve the use of astronomy as a tool for education, development and diplomacy under the central theme “Under One Sky”.

Our understanding of the Universe we live in has changed dramatically since the founding of the IAU, just one century ago. The Universe is larger, more diverse and more dynamic than anybody could have imagined. And much is still unknown.