Astronomers may be the world champions at giving fantastically dull names to spectacular objects. Over the years, catchy monickers like GRB 130606A and SDSS J150243.09+111557.3 have graced our pages. That trend has carried over into the naming of exoplanets, which picked up names like KOI 784.02 (where KOI is just short for "Kepler object of interest"). That's led at least one company to try to fill the void by letting people pay for the right to (completely unofficially) name a planet.
At the time the naming program first hit the news, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) made a statement that reminded everyone that the names would have no official weight. However, the IAU also recognized that the public was excited about the prospect and suggested it might do something about the situation. Unfortunately, the IAU's definition of "do something" involved kicking the problem to a committee, which is often where large organizations send ideas to die.
Yet the Public Naming of Planets and Planetary Satellites Working Group has come through. About a year ago, it determined that exoplanet names should follow the rules that govern the...
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