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April 21, 2016

Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science | Volume 3 | SCI-NEWS 11

Rogue astronomer names new exoplanet Kepler-89a

TEMPE, ARIZONA—Abandoning all sense of astronomical convention and forgoing years of official planetary nomenclature, a rogue astronomer has decided to name a recently discovered exoplanet in the Kepler 89 star system as ‘Kepler-89a’.

Wendell Latimer, professor of astronomy at Arizona State University, explained his brash decision to break from the long-established naming rules, especially the rule stating that exoplanet designations do not end in ‘a’: “My wife, daughter and two sons all have names beginning with ‘A’, which we chose to honor my late father, whose name was Aaron,” said Latimer.

Unsurprisingly, the scientific community is outraged. “These rules have been established for almost half a dozen years,” said Reginald Jones, primary astronomer at the Royal Society of Concerned Scientists. “Latimer is making a mockery of well-established scientific dogma.”

Despite the controversy, Latimer will be submitting ‘Kepler-89a’ as the official name later this week. “It’s something I feel very strongly about, and I’m prepared for the consequences,” said Latimer.

However, the chances of acceptance are very low, as Sir Reginald Jones explained: “There’s a very, very good reason why the names of exoplanets cannot end in ‘a’—which I would tell you, but I can see that you are a busy person, and I don’t want to get bogged down in all the details, and frankly, it’s not very interesting in the first place—but I’m afraid that rules are rules and Latimer will ultimately be forced to alter the name.”

This is not Latimer’s first spar with naming conventions. In 2010, Latimer attempted to name a new comet he discovered in January as ‘2010 P1/Latimer’, in order to honor his late grandmother Pattie, and, in 2011, Latimer named a new minor planet, ‘32334 Mr. Wigglesworth III’ to honor his pet cat. Both names were ultimately rejected.


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