Help junior high group name exoplanets

San Francisco de Asís students show off (courtesy photo)
San Francisco de Asís students show off 55 Cancri, which is among a newly discovered group of planets they have the chance to name. A public vote will determine the final name. (courtesy photo)

Can a group of students within The Catholic Sun’s coverage area name a system of planets and a star they orbit? They can if you help them win the vote.

The proposed name, “Christmas Island,” would be used to identify a newly discovered group of planets and the star it orbits. It’s among the finalists in the NameExoWorlds contest. Voters can make their selection only once for each of the 20 systems. The deadline is Oct. 31.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders at San Francisco de Asís have worked with their science teacher and a school parent/astronomer for the last seven months on the project. To explore or vote for their name:

  • San Francisco de Asís students show what look for on screen in order to vote online for their proposed name of some newly discovered exoplanets. (courtesy photo)
    San Francisco de Asís students show what look for on screen in order to vote online for their proposed name of some newly discovered exoplanets. (courtesy photo)

    click on the vote link under “for individuals”

  • click on 55 Cancri (FYI, it has five planets)
  • Scroll down to their proposal, “Christmas Island.” Read how the sea life of Christmas Island and climate change inspired their proposal. The students said they chose the name because “55 Cancri is located in the constellation Cancer, The Crab and as the star is a red dwarf we thought of the famous red crabs that are native to the island. Christmas Island is home to millions of red crabs that migrate during the wet season to release eggs into the ocean.”
  • vote

“Christmas Island” is one of about 14 choices on the 55 Cancri ballot.

I haven’t explored the details of the project yet, but it might be worth exploring and voting within the “mu Arae” system too. It was fourth down on the left column on my screen. There’s something about its constellation name, “the Altar,” that drew me in.

The winning name will be an officially recognized description that professional astronomers will use in their research as they publish scientific results.