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The Canadian Astronomical Society Wants You To Name A Planet & A Star In This Stellar Contest

Ever wanted to name a celestial body? This is your time! The Canadian Astronomical Society is holding a contest for Canadians to name an exoplanet and the star that it's orbiting. Right now, the star and exoplanet (which are 340 light years away from Earth) are just going by HD 136418 and HD 136418 b, respectively. There has to be catchier names than that.

The contest is open to all Canadians. All you have to do is submit your name along with a short entry (100 words or less, in English or French) explaining your choices. 

In the past, opening naming rights up to the public, particularly over the internet, has not always gone as planned. Just ask Britain’s National Environmental Research Council, whose poll to name a new vessel in 2016 resulted in thousands of votes for the ship to be named "Boaty McBoatface."

While the ship ended up being named the RRS Sir David Attenborough, one of its unmanned research submarines was given the designation Boaty McBoatface instead. Despite the silly moniker, the sub has made significant discoveries related to climate change.

For this Canadian contest, however, there are some strict rules set out by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The names must be between four and 16 letters long, non-offensive, and, among other things, cannot be the name of your pet.

The celestial bodies can also not be named after commercial entities (so no Planet Pepsi), nor can the name be too similar to another existing body (so you can't name it Mars 2: The Sequel). 

The IAU and Canada's Astronomical Society have encouraged names that come from Indigenous languages, in honor of the UN 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. It wouldn't be the first body named this way. In 2018, a minor planet was named Tsawout, after a B.C. Indigenous community.

Anyone who wants a chance at naming the star or exoplanet must submit their names by midnight (PDT) on Sep. 20, 2019. Later, Canadians will be asked to vote on the top names decided by an expert panel.