Glasgow & West Scotland

Ayrshire Astronomical Society hopes to name exo-planets

Exo planet illustration Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Exo worlds are planets orbiting a distant star

Scottish amateur astronomers hope to name alien planets known as exo-worlds.

Ayrshire Astronomical Society is one of 17 UK groups competing in the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) NameExoWorlds contest.

The organisation is believed to be the only one from Scotland to have registered.

Exo-planets orbit distant stars and the IAU wants to find names for 305 which currently carry scientific designations such as GJ 832 b and CoRoT-1b.

Other UK groups signed up for the contest include Armagh Planetarium, University of Leicester and Wells and Mendip Astronomers.

Graham Longbottom, president of Ayrshire Astronomical Society, said the group hoped to offer up names to planets orbiting stars visible from the northern hemisphere with the naked eye, or through binoculars.

He said: "The idea to enter the competition came from one of our members.

"It gives the society a chance to get involved in a big astronomy event, something that is not often possible.

"It is also very inclusive. It works for all our members, at any level of ability in astronomy, and that was what attracted us to it."

Mr Longbottom said the society had still to decide on names.

The competition will go through a process over the next few months, including a public vote on suggested names.

The IAU and citizen science organisation Zooniverse expect to deal with millions of votes.

Results of the contest will be announced during a ceremony in August in Honolulu, USA.

Astronomers have been indentifying hundreds of exo-planets. Scientists speculate that some may have the right conditions to support life.

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