The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has selected the names suggested by 13-year-old Pune student Vidyasagar Daud and 20-year-old Surat youth and Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology student Ananyo Bhattacharya for exoplanet HD 86081 b and its host star HD 86081, respectively.
The exoplanet, discovered by US astronomers in 2013, will now be rechristened “Santamas”, a Sanskrit word meaning “clouded”, officials said, while its host star will be named “Bibha”, a Bengali pronunciation of the Sanskrit word ‘Vibha’ meaning “a bright beam of light”. It also seeks to honour Indian physicist Dr Bibha Chowdhuri.
The IAU, which is responsible for naming astronomical bodies, shortlisted the two names from 1,717 suggestions submitted by youngsters from across the country. The Indian youngsters were invited to suggest names for the two astronomical objects as part of an international campaign in the centenary year of the IAU.
“This campaign was conducted for the first time in India to raise awareness about exoplanets among students. Each of the 112 countries was assigned a star and an exoplanet, for which entries were invited,” said Aniket Sule, chair, Astronomical Society of India Public Outreach and Education Committee.
Exoplanets are planets and planetary systems orbiting around nearby stars.
The other names shortlisted for the exoplanet include “Abhrakasin”, “Aleya”, “Taptabrihas” and “Turanga”. Whereas, the other entries for the host star were “Anahata”, “Rashmirathi”, “Suteja” and “Vibhas”. Most of the suggested names are in Sanskrit.
The entries were accepted till August 31. National voting on 10 shortlisted names – five each for the exoplanet and the star – was held between October 10 and November 10.
“Lying about 340 light-years away from us, the star HD 86081 is slightly hotter, larger and older than our Sun. Its exoplanet HD 86081 b is a lonely world orbiting around its star. It appears to be similar to the planet Jupiter in size and mass, but orbits very close to the star, thus expected to have a very high temperature. The star is located in the constellation of Sextans and is visible in Indian skies,” a statement released by the Astronomical Society of India said.
“The Committee unanimously believes that this star name, with this particular spelling of it, is of importance to highlight women’s contribution in the Indian science community. It honours the unsung Indian physicist Dr Bibha Chowdhuri (1913-1991)” the statement added.
Dr Somak Raychaudhury, director of Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, and member of the national committee, said, “Scientist Dr Bibha Choudhury… discovered a new subatomic particle, the pi-meson, from experiments in Darjeeling, with her mentor DM Bose, and published her results in ‘Nature’, but did not get due recognition. I am very happy that we can recognise her contribution by naming a unique cosmic body after her.”