Onoma: A Heavens of Proper Names

There are things that astronomers and astrophysicists do very, very well. Naming things is not one of them. Specifically, naming exoplanets. It’s like the field has gone out of its way to make space and the discovery of new alien worlds banal. 

With names like Kepler-16b, EPIC 201367065d, and GJ 667C e∗ it’s woefully obvious that NASA could use some branding help. I mean, there is a star system with the official name 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5. These exoplanet names don’t really roll off the tongue nor do they do anything to inspire the imagination.

There was an attempt earlier this year by the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) to jazz up the exoplanet discovery. I think it was the step in the right direction.


But this still doesn’t address the fundamental problem. These names are clunky and dismal. A fables that shows up again and again throughout all cultures in all of human history is the naming of the world. We need to name our heavens or else it is not real.

An exoplanets in the habitable zone around their star deserve our special attention. There is a myriad of worlds out there.

The IAU (International Astronomical Union) have attempted naming the exoplanets. Yet its decision to open up naming to popular vote was less than ideal. A populist approach to anything is sloppy at best and most often produces asinine results. It is a good start. Hopefully, the voting will lead to a higher profile for all exoplanets.

The Habitable Exoplanet Catalog is constantly updating the list of potentially habitable exoplanets using the Earth Similarity Index. Rather than focus on all of these, I would rather narrow my view to twelve planets discovered by the Kepler satellite. These are relatively Earth-sized worlds in the habitable zone of their systems.


My intention is to name each of these planets. My hope is that perhaps the name will catch-on or, at least, inspire a different or better name. For the most part, I will be following the IAU’s naming guidelines. What I hope to do is base the name on what we know about the particular exoplanet and how that dovetails with our own planet’s histories and languages.

Svaseyi: Kepler-452b

Phaeton: Kepler-438b

Melior: Kepler-186f

Azizos & Arsu: Kepler-296e & Kepler-296f

Hiraeth: Kepler-442b

Caim: Kepler-155c

Dashrath: Kepler-235e

Alcyoneus: Kepler-440b

Nepenthe: Kepler-283c

Lorelei & Khamsa: Kepler-62e & Kepler 62f

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