Two planetary systems are named in Basque and Catalan

The star formerly known as GJ 486 and its planet will soon be renamed by the Basque words ‘Gar’ and ‘Su’. The WASP-166 system will in turn receive the names ‘Filetdor’ and ‘Catalineta’, taken from Majorcan oral tradition. These designations were selected by the International Astronomical Union within the framework of the Name ExoWorlds 2022 contest and have just been made public.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the entity responsible for the official nomenclature of celestial bodies. For years he has carried out a process that aims to name some stars that have planets around them, to facilitate the reference to these systems without having to resort to complicated numerical codes, difficult to pronounce and remember.

At the same time, the procedure for choosing names favors popular participation, which opens new avenues for astronomy communication and encourages the adoption of names endowed with cultural significance.

Naming celestial bodies brings science closer to citizens and facilitates pronunciation and memorization

The nomenclature process is organized by calls in which planetary systems of special relevance are included. Particular details are introduced into the calls that make each call a unique contest with global reach. In the year 2022, the IAU contracted its Office for the Popularization of Astronomy (OAO) to organize the Name ExoWorlds 2022 contest to name 20 extrasolar planetary systems.

On this occasion, the call favors proposals compatible with the objectives of the Decade of Indigenous Languages ​​(2022-2032) declared by the United Nations.

spanish proposals

Each OAO national node was in charge of selecting and prioritizing the proposals coming from their community. The Spanish node received 22 valid proposals and, in accordance with the rules of the contest, prioritized the three that stood out the most.

Illustration of the surface of a planet.

Artist’s rendering of the surface of the hot super-Earth GJ 86b, now called Su. /TO BE

In this process, the transversality of the proposing teams and the carrying out of high-impact dissemination campaigns, both in person and online, were particularly valued. Of these three Spanish proposals, now the UAI has chosen two of them to make their names official in the sky.

‘Gar’ and ‘Su’, the Basque proposal

The star GJ 486, in Virgo, is a red dwarf 27 light-years from the Sun. A rocky planet three times as massive as Earth orbits around it. From now on, the star will be called Gar and its planet will be known as Su. These words mean ‘flame’ and ‘fire’ in Basque and refer to the Basque expression “su eta gar”, which literally means “fire and flame” and denotes passion and enthusiasm.

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“Su eta gar”, literally “fire and flame” in Basque, refers to passion and enthusiasm

The proposing team, led by Itziar Garate-Lopez, has developed a communication work that materializes in its Portal Gar+Su. It turns out that the planet Su was discovered from Spain, with a fundamental contribution from the Calar Alto Observatory and its Cármenes spectrograph.

‘Filetdor’ and ‘Catalineta’, the Mallorcan proposal

The team led by Sebastià Barceló Forteza proposed names in Catalan for the planetary system of the star WASP-166, in the constellation of Hydra and 370 light years from the Sun. The planet in this system is a gas giant with a mass just over half that of Jupiter.

The star will be named Filetdor, while the planet will be known as Catalineta. The name of the star refers to the Filet d’Or, a golden sea serpent that is the protagonist in a Majorcan fable of oral tradition (rondalla). In this fable, a little girl, Catalineta, after whom the planet is named, lives an incredible adventure after an accidental encounter with a sea serpent. The information actions of the proposing team are compiled on the Es Nostro Cel portal.

Other proposals

The third proposal selected by the Spanish node of the OAO had Antonio Quesada Ramos at the head of his team and suggested the Arabic names Al Andalus and Al Hamra for the same system that ended up receiving the names in Basque. Al Andalus is the name of medieval Moorish Spain, while Al Hamra (literally, “the red one”) is the original name of the royal fortress in Granada that we know today as the Alhambra.

The new names of these planetary systems will be made official soon and, thus, the traditional Basque and Balearic cultures will have their place in the Galaxy. These Spanish names join those of the stars Cervantes and Rosaliadecastro, with their respective planets (Quijote, Dulcinea, Rocinante and Sancho for the first, and Riosar for the second), who received their designations in previous editions of the Name ExoWorlds contest. The four official languages ​​of Spanish are already present in the firmament.

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