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Kilmarnock group competes to name alien planets

This news post is about 9 years old

Ayrshire society enters competition to name alien plants from galaxies far far away

A Scottish amateur astronomer group is bidding to be the first to name two alien planets.

Ayrshire Astronomical Society is one of 17 UK groups competing in the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) NameExoWorlds contest.

Exo-worlds orbit distant stars but often just carry scientific designations.

The Kilmarnock-based organisation is believed to be the only one from Scotland to have registered for the competition.

Graham Longbottom, president of Ayrshire Astronomical Society, said "The idea to enter the competition came from one of our members.

"It gives the society a chance to get involved in a big astronomy event, something that is not often possible.

"It is also very inclusive. It works for all our members, at any level of ability in astronomy, and that was what attracted us to it."

However the society had still to decide on names for the planets, something it will do in consultation with its members.

The competition will go through a process over the next few months, including a public vote on suggested names.

The IAU and citizen science organisation Zooniverse expect to deal with millions of votes.

Results of the contest will be announced during a ceremony in August in Honolulu, USA.

Astronomers have been identifying hundreds of exo-planets for years.

Scientists speculate that some may have the right conditions to support life.