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NameExoWorlds contest enters final stage; cast your vote by October 31

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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has announced the commencement of the final stage of the NameExoWorlds contest with members of the public now free to vote on the shortlist of names for the ExoWorlds — 20 planetary systems comprising 15 stars and 32 exoplanets.

This is the first opportunity for public to have their say in naming of exoplanets as well as the stars they are orbiting. The vote will decide the names for the selected stars and exoplanets.

IAU is authority responsible for assigning official names to celestial bodies and traditionally exoplanets and stars have been named after their founders, but this is for the first time in centuries that the public will be able to decide on the names of twenty stars with known exoplanets in orbit around them.

The IAU received 247 proposals for the names of the 20 ExoWorlds and it has now opened the proposals for a public vote, which you can access at the NameExoWorlds website. A full list of the ExoWorlds can be found here, which includes both single and multiple-planet systems.

Explanations for the names of the 20 host stars, in addition to personal messages from some of the scientists who discovered them, are available here. There is no need to register, but each device (computer or smartphone) can only vote once for each of the 20 systems.

The clubs and/or non-profit organisations that successfully propose a winning ExoWorld name will receive a plaque and will be eligible to propose a name for a minor planet (subject to the usual rules for minor planet naming).

Lisa Kaltenegger from Cornell University officially opened the contest and cast the first vote at a public ceremony held during the IAU’s XXIX General Assembly in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The ceremony was accompanied by a special greeting from astronaut Scott Kelly, currently aboard the International Space Station, which was kindly facilitated by NASA.

Votes can be cast here. The closing date for entries is 23:59 UTC on 31 October 2015.