What am I McNaming?March 6, 2017
NASA asks people to suggest names for their newly discovered exoplanets — hilarity ensues
Learning nothing from the Boaty McBoatface incident, researchers have again come to ask the public to name things. This time, it’s NASA asking people for suggestions on how to name the newly discovered 7 planets of the Trappist system. Still, the Internet has come up with a wonderful mix of suggestions ranging from trollish or tongue-in-cheek, all the way to some that might actually get picked by the agency.
The Internet doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to naming things. Just last March, UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) invited people to vote on what name their newest arctic research vessel should be christened with. NERC went with RRS Sir David Attenborough in recognition to the world famous UK naturalist and broadcaster — but that’s not what the public voted for. Oh no.
After former BBC Radio Jersey presenter James Hand jokingly suggested the council should go with Boaty McBoatface, the suggestion picked up a huge number of votes, quickly becoming the most popular name. Thankfully for the NERC, they announced from the beginning that the poll was non-binding in nature so they could opt for what they considered a “more appropriate” name.
Now, NASA is the one to call upon the collective creativity of the Internet to name the seven exoplanets whose discovery they announced in February. As of now, they’re known by their placeholder names of Trappist-1b to h.
It was a simple request, but one bound to run into the same problems as NERC’s vote. Some suggestions were simply funny, we’ve seen some nods to cultural references, and some suggestions that might actually make it. And surely enough, “Planet McPlanetface” made it in the suggestions.
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Rumors say the new planets will have universal docking ports. We’ll have to wait and see. And, talking about planets that NASA says aren’t ‘really’ planets:
Planet of the Apes
There’s also a lot of cultural referencing going on, with the names of great houses from Game of Thrones being suggested, the dwarfs’ names in Snow White, as well as nods to the Harry Potter books. But this one I enjoyed the most:
A New Hope
Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
The Force Awakens
then routinely deny the other three exist
Some users have also pointed out the connection to Belgian beers of the same name, suggesting the planets be named after the Trappist breweries.
As the original Trappists, easy!
Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren
Some users view the christenings as an opportunity to those who have sacrificed in humanity’s efforts to reach for the stars — several tweets call for the planets to be named for the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Challenger in 1986.
Seeing the generally light-hearted way and humorous these suggestions are being suggested on Twitter, it’s unlikely that NASA will actually go with any of them. Ultimately however, the decision lies with the International Astronomical Union, and it may still surprise us in the end. Which means there’s still a tiny hope for Pluto.