Human Journey

“Sex c” New Planet Discovered

OK. If this headline makes you cringe rather than snicker, just stop reading this post right now.

Good? Great. On to the news.

exoplanet-jupiter-artist.jpg

An artist’s impression of a Jupiter-like exoplanet.

—Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Late last month astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced the discovery of four new extrasolar planets, two each around the subgiant stars HD 200964 and 24 Sextanis.

The pair of exoplanets found around HD 200964 got top billing, because the planets’ “intimate dance is closer and tighter than any previously seen,” according to the Caltech press release.

What astronomers found is that, even though the two worlds are gas giant planets each more massive than Jupiter, they orbit within 32.5 million miles (52.3 million kilometers) of each other.

By contrast, Jupiter and Saturn are the closest-together gas giants in our solar system, and they’re never less than 330 million miles (531 million kilometers) apart.

“This new planet pair came in an unexpected package,” astronomer John Johnson (no, I am not making that up) was quoted as saying.

But it turns out the other pair of exoplanets may be even funnier, thanks to the formal naming conventions for planets found orbiting other stars.

The two worlds circling 24 Sextanis are also in a close embrace, keeping within about 70 million miles (112.6 million kilometers) of each other.

What the CalTech release fails to mention is that the planets have names: 24 Sex b and 24 Sex c.

While each world in our solar system bears an official name based on mythology, the basic rule for naming an exoplanet is to use the star’s name followed by a lower-case letter. The star itself is considered “a,” so the first planet found gets labelled with a “b,” and so on through the alphabet.

exoplanets-naming-letters.jpg

A direct picture of exoplanets HR8799b, c and d.

—Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Palomar Observatory

Sometimes the star names get abbreviated in the catalogs, so 24 Sextanis (itself named for the constellation it lives in, Sextans) got cut short—and hilarity ensues.

Sometimes newer stars get named after the instruments or techniques used to find them, giving us exoplanets with names such as OGLE-TR-56b.

That’s thanks to the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), which was designed to study variability in starlight.

OGLE data have helped astronomers find planets via the so-called Doppler wobble, slight dips in starlight caused by a planet’s gravitational pull.

Of course, this system can also mean that exoplanet names get increasingly unwieldy—NGC 4349 No 127 b just doesn’t have the same ring as say, Uranus.

The issue has led some people to suggest we should formalize a naming convention for exoplanets based on mythology, although at 473 planets and counting, we could run out of Greco-Roman names real fast.

Still others have said to save the proper names for habitable, Earthlike worlds.

Astronomical naming can get contentious, as evidenced by recent debacles over several newfound Kuiper belt objects. But it does tend to make life easier for those of us who have to talk about exoplanets to the public on a regular basis.

So, what would you name an exoplanet?

  • Marconi Barretto

    I just love you blog 🙂
    keep going!!!!
    if you have chance post more article about nature!!!

    thanks,

    Marconi Barretto

  • onkyo htx22hdx

    A very usefull article – Thank you very much I wish you dont mind me blogging about this article on my website I will also link back to this post Thanks

  • web design

    nice

  • Reylla Ferraz

    Hiper, super blog,
    i just love!

    i Recommend 😉

  • Media Player

    your article is awesome!

  • Gary Greene

    Why stick with the Greco-Roman pantheons? Earth has an extraordinarily long list of mythologies to pull from for naming stellar objects outside the Sol system. Norse, Chinese, Aztec?

  • i found your site while i was searching in google, very interesting.

  • mega-liberty telecharger megaupload

    thanks

  • Appreciate it for this post, I am a big fan of this website would like to go along updated.

  • Traduction

    Thank you, I have been seeking for details about this subject for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far.

  • Great work !!

  • My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome website!

  • Michael

    Hiper, super blog,
    i just love!

    Thanks

  • Thank you, this article help to me!

  • Good morning, I’m doing related to your post and I have few questions to you. Where did you find informations for your blog post? In papers, maybe in rags or books, or just randomly on the Web? Please respond :).

  • Hello very nice blog. Really interesting. Look to see more.

  • http://www.softwharf.com

    He y great works I really liked it
    keep up the good work

  • I wanted to inform you about how much we appreciate every little thing you’ve provided to help increase the value of the lives of folks in this subject matter. Through your articles, I have gone through just a newbie to a professional in the area. It’s truly a homage to your endeavours. Thanks

  • Private Student Loans with no cosigner

    Hi
    What a nice post i have learn very technical information to this article. I really like it. Thanks for sharing.

  • ATP World Tour Final London Tickets

    Fabulous post it is really so good information. it is very imported for me.Thanks for sharing.

  • well, it seems you’re right!

  • xzfi16

    very good post and this blog

  • hello there and thank you for your information – I have certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise some technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and can damage your high-quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I am adding this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more of your respective intriguing content. Ensure that you update this again very soon..- myTouch 4G Slide

  • Most I can express is, I’m not sure what to say! Except of course, for the superb tips that happen to be shared on this blog. I am able to think of a trillion fun strategies to read the posts on this site. I’m sure I will ultimately make a move utilizing your tips on those issues I could not have been able to handle alone. You had been so clever to permit me to be one of those to learn from your useful information. Please realize how great I am thankful.

  • Glad to be one of the visitants on this awful site : D.

  • How are you ?, Making it very give thanks to all the autor associated with the websites. Each is pretty obvious and thus great. The design can typically be impressive in my position. Wouldn’t you please be sure to tel me it is possible to design template exactly what utilise? thank you a lot more and even go forward the be effective.

  • ผลบอล

    Thanks for your great share.

  • RZNOWSHAD

    THANKS FOR KNOWING US THES IMPORTANT NEWS

  • Carlton Markð¯

    I suggest you to put facebook likes button.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media