Thais invited to name distant star and exo-planet

Astronomical researchers have invited the public to nominate Thai names for a distant star and its exo-planet as part of the International Astronomical Union’s NameExoWorlds project.

The star GJ 3470 and its planet GJ 3470b, are 95.9 light years from our own solar system and located in the constellation of Cancer, also known as The Crab, which is also one of the 12 constellations in the zodiac.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) chose Thailand because this exo-planet is the first that Thai astronomers have studied, researched and observed through telescopes at the National Observatory on Doi Inthanon mountain in northern Chiang Mai Province.

GJ 3470 is a red dwarf star about half the radius and mass of our sun. The star is considered quite active as it displayed three solar flares in 2021. The existence of its exo-planet GJ 3470b was confirmed in 2012 when it was observed transiting the star.

The planet resembles Neptune in that it is a gas giant about 14 times the size of the Earth and believed to be bluish green. Its orbit is much closer than Neptune’s and it takes only 3.3 days to complete a round trip around the star.

Astronomers believe that GJ 3470 may have many more planets in its solar system, perhaps a dozen or so, including a Saturn-size planet orbiting in its habitable zone – the area that scientists believe would be capable of supporting life depending on other factors.

Supachai Awiphan, a researcher with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, said that the institute is inviting people to submit Thai names for the star and its planet.

Participants must explain the relation between both names in 3-4 sentences. Each name must be able to be transcribed in English in 4-16 characters. Names can be submitted until October 7 on an online google form.

The institute will select 10 pairs of names from participants, who must compete in the final round by presenting the concept behind their names. Then two sets will be picked for people to vote on online. The winning names will be submitted to the IAU, which will officially announce them in March 2023.

The IAU NameExoWorlds project is putting up 20 new planets for naming this year.

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