Exoplanet, star in Hercules constellation given Slovenian names

Ljubljana, 17 December - An exoplanet and its star located in the Hercules constellation 446 light years from Earth will be given Slovenian names Iztok and Irena. The names were picked as part of a campaign promoting astronomy held on the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The winning proposal came from Samo Košmrlj, a physics student, who proposed naming the two celestial bodies after two characters from the novel Pod Svobodnim Soncem (Under the Free Sun) by Fran Saleški Finžgar.

Running across the world under the slogan 100 Years Under One Sky this year, the NameExoWorlds campaign in Slovenia was a quest to find the most suitable popular names for the exoplanet WASP-38b and its star WASP-38.

The organisers received more than 380 proposals, of which 73 did not comply with the conditions.

A jury picked a shortlist of 12 proposals before deciding on the three finalists, said jury member Katja Bricman from the Nova Gorica University.

The other two finalists were Morana and Kresnik, and Apis and Tilia.

Initially, Apis and Tilia, the Latin names for honeybee and linden, were picked but the IAU turned the proposal down, because a celestial body is already named Tilia.

More than 70 countries participated in the campaign in which every participating country was awarded a planetary system, an exoplanet and a star. Each of the stars awarded can be seen from the country it was awarded to and is bright enough to be observed even with a smaller telescope.

David Brown from Warwick University, one of the scientists who discovered the planet Iztok, said in a video address today that the planet had been one of first to be discovered as part of the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project.

He also said that Irena was bigger than the Sun, hotter and slightly older. Iztok is a hot planet similar to Jupiter, only bigger and heavier. Astronomers assume that its core is solid rock, surrounded by gas, mostly hydrogen.