IAU Opens Planet-Naming Process To The Rest Of Us
This week the International Astronomical Union, long responsible for giving planets sexy names like "HD 189733b," surprised many by opening the process to the general public. Not surprisingly, there are some rules involved. (Sit down, Trekkies.)
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
This week the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced that it would allow the general public to provide name suggestions for newly-discovered planets, reversing longstanding policy and surprising many in the astronomy community. Interested people can submit their favorites to an e-mail address, and if they meet the criteria set by the agency, they will be put into consideration, and may even be subject to a public vote. Some of those criteria include length, pronunciation, and source of origin: For example, names can only come from intellectual property if that property is in the public domain, ruling out many popular science fiction suggestions (for the time being).
What's the Big Idea?
In a statement, the IAU cited the recent increased public interest in space as a reason for its policy change. Some of that interest was fueled by private planet-naming ventures, such as those launched by the SETI Institute and Uwingu earlier this year. Such campaigns have also been sanctioned, assuming they too follow established rules. Those rules provoked this comment from astronomer and Uwingu CEO Alan Stern: "Fundamentally it’s still about the public being subservient to IAU committees that pass on recommendations...Why should [they] be a traffic cop?"
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.
- While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
- We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
- Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.