The International Astronomical Union (IAU), a group that promotes the science of astronomy through international cooperation, issued a statement Friday to make the public aware that any individuals or groups selling the “rights” to name exoplanet are scamming people willing to pay the fee. The IAU says that purchasing the “rights” to name exoplanets will not impact the official naming process.
Though the IAU supports the public’s curiosity about exoplanets, the astronomy group also supports the existence of a consolidated naming process for the more than 800 exoplanets that have been discovered to date. With advanced technology, astronomers expect thousands more to be located in the coming years.
Making money off of people’s interest in space is nothing new. The New York Times’ Simon Ennis wrote about Dennis M. Hope, a man who “sells” land plots in space, in 2013. Hope’s business is thriving even though the entrepreneur has no legal authority to sell land plots in space.
The astronomy group says that an organization recently asked the public to buy both nomination proposals for exoplanets, as well as the rights to vote for the suggested names. The IAU notes that the certificate received by the purchaser is deceptive: so-called exoplanet naming campaigns have no impact on the official naming process.
This is how the official naming process is conducted: Exoplanets are given unambiguous and official catalog designations so that a clear and systematic system for naming space objects is in place. Without one, the broad number of objects in our Universe would confuse astronomers and the public. In fact, any naming system takes into account languages and cultures to foster international collaboration on space discoveries.
The IAU says it is the single judge of the exoplanet naming process, and is informed and helped by astronomers worldwide. The astronomy group says it is in no way connected to any group that sells names of planets, stars or land plots in space. These practices will never be supported by the IAU.
Have you ever bought the naming “rights” to an exoplanet? Share your thoughts in the comments section.