IAU decides exoplanet naming by the public is OK
- Uwingu Responds to the IAU, and Extension of People’s Choice Contest to Choose a Name for the Planet Orbiting Alpha Centauri – Uwingu – Apr.15.2013.
- Uwingu’s Board of Advisors Responds to the IAU – Uwingu – Apr.9.2013
Now, however, the IAU has created its own exoplanet naming program for the public:
- NameExoWorlds: An IAU Worldwide Contest to Name Exoplanets and their Host Stars – IAU
- Finally, Really, You’re Invited to Help Name Distant Planets – Popular Science
The Popular Science article uses the word “official” a lot but assigning “official” to whatever the IAU management endorses is purely subjective. IAU is just one of many astronomy and science organizations. (I’d guess that only a minority of professional astronomers and space scientists belong to it.) It is neither a global nor intergalactic governmental organization. It’s main job is to organize conferences. Acceptance of the IAU’s space nomenclature system is voluntary. It’s clear that the IAU is merely fighting to protect and expand its turf and to maintain an aura of space officialdom. It wants to keep organizations like Uwingu from trespassing on its turf and dulling its aura.
Uwingu makes no claim that the names selected in its programs are “official” or will become broadly accepted names in the future. Users are informed of the limited domain for the names they choose. The primary goal is to give people a sense of participation and connection to real places off of earth and in the process raise some money for research.
The IAU’s exoplanet naming program will do little to limit Uwingu’s activities and I expect will instead encourage more organizations to get into the space place naming biz.