Israelis will have the opportunity to name a far-off space body in the coming months. An exoplanet currently known as HAT-P-9b, located 1,585 light years from Earth, is awaiting a name, and the International Astronomical Union is relying on Israelis to supply one.
It’s part of a worldwide campaign by the IAU in commemoration of its 100th anniversary. Called the IAU100 NameExoWorlds global campaign, the organization has signed up over 100 countries to organize national campaigns that will provide the public with an opportunity to vote.
An exoplanet is a celestial body seen through a high-powered telescope that orbits nearby stars. Thousands of such bodies have been discovered in recent years. The IAU is the authority responsible for assigning official designations and names to these celestial bodies, and to “create awareness of our place in the Universe,” the group organized the planet-naming program.
HAT-P-9b is an exoplanet approximately 1,500 light years away in the constellation Auriga, first observed in 2008, and is 40% the size of Jupiter, and believed to have many of that planet’s characteristics, with an atmosphere consisting mostly of helium and ammonia. The Israel Space Administration is in charge of the naming process, and will be taking proposals for names through November 24th. The names, the ISA said, should “reflect features connected to Israel, such as objects, people, or places with social significance.”