This could end badly: Astronomers to use online voting to choose new planet names

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Jul 10, 2014, 10:14 AM EDT (Updated)

We humans can be stupid creatures, especially when you give us anonymity and the limitless power of the Internet. So look out, distant planets and star systems, we’re coming for you next.

In a cool move to help get the general public more interested and engaged with astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) tasked with naming heavenly bodies plans to open up the process to public recommendations and an eventual public vote via the NameExoWorlds initiative.

The union has selected 305 worlds discovered before Dec. 31, 2008, as a starting point for the exoplanet name vote, according to Space. The exoplanets chosen for the project belong to 260 exoplanetary systems, with one to five planets per system, in addition to the host star. The winning names will be used in conjunction with the existing scientific names.

The first phase will kick off in September, and astronomy clubs and nonprofits will select the top 20 to 30 systems they want to name in October; they’ll have until December to submit their proposals for names. The IAU will then open the competition to the public in March 2015 with a vote, when it will ask all of us to rank the proposed names for the alien planets and stars. They hope to announce the winners in August 2015.

Now, to make sure things don’t get too silly/offensive/insane/hilarious, the IAU has put together a few ground rules folks will have to follow to participate. For one, names must be 16 characters or less, preferably one word, nonoffensive, pronounceable and not too similar to names already assigned to other celestial bodies. Names of pets, commercial assets, or living people are also out, as well as events or places known largely for political or religious activities. Regardless, we're still extremely curious to see what makes it through.

Give us a few of your best planetary recommendations below and let us know what you think about the project.

(Via Space)