NameExoWorlds Contest

By / par Sharon Morsink (University of Alberta)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

Sharon Morsink

The International Astronomical Union celebrated its centenary in 2019 with the international NameExoWorlds Contest. In this contest, the IAU assigned approximately 100 countries (including Canada) a star and an exoplanet. Each country then ran a contest where the public was asked to propose a set of linked names for the star and exoplanet. Canada (through CASCA) was assigned the star HD 136418 and its exoplanet HD 136418b. Phil Langill, Director of the Rothney Observatory at the University of Calgary, used the Rothney’s Baker-Nunn telescope to produce a wide-field image of the stellar neighbourhood of HD 136418.

Figure 1. Starfield near Nikâwiy. Image reduction by Phil Langill.

The new names for the star and planet are Nikâwiy and Awasis (respectively). Both names come from the Cree language. Nikâwiy translates into English as « my mother » and is pronounced NI-gah-wee, where the « g » is hard g as in « gate ». Awasis translates into English as « child » and is pronounced « ah-wah-sis ». If new exoplanets orbiting Nikâwiy are discovered, these will be named after other family members in the Cree language. The original idea for this naming convention came from Amanda Green, a junior high science teacher in Alberta and then was modified slightly by Wilfred Buck, a noted Cree educator who specializes in astronomy education.

Figure 2. Amanda Green and Wilfred Buck, photo credit Emily Mertz, Global News.

The CFHT Director, Doug Simons, granted us a short observation of Nikâwiy using the spectrometers ESPaDOnS and SPIRou which produced a very detailed spectrum.

Figure 3. Spectrum of Nikâwiy from the ESPaDOnS and SPIRou spectrometers on the CFHT Telescope. Data reduction by Phil Langill.


Figure 4. Detail of Hydrogen absorption line.


Figure 5. Detail of Sodium absorption lines.


Figure 6. Detail of Calcium absorption lines.

I would like to thank all of the CASCA members who helped publicize the contests. We had over 500 suggestions for naming conventions, and over 700 people voted on the 4 finalists. The 500 suggestions were narrowed down to just 4 finalists by the panel composed of: Pierre Lacombe, Christian Marois, Nicole Mortillaro, Hilding Nielson, and Laurie Rousseau-Nepton. The contest was organized by a subcommittee of CASCA’s EPO committee including Pierre Chastenay, Julie Buldoc-Duval, Phil Langill, Kelly Lepo, Nathalie Ouellette, Nienke van der Marel, Frederique Baron, Mary Beth Laychak, Mike Chen, and myself (Sharon Morsink). I would like to thank everyone who helped make this contest a successful outreach event!

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