Remember the Boaty McBoatface incident? Well, the Internet is trying its digital hand at naming things again, and this time it’s for NASA’s latest exciting discovery: the 7 new exoplanets of the Trappist system. Twitter users have come up with a wonderful mix of suggestions ranging from trollish or tongue-in-cheek, all the way to some that might actually have some merit as potential names for the planets.
The Internet doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to naming things. Just last March, UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) invited people to vote on what name their newest arctic research vessel should be christened with. NERC went with RRS Sir David Attenborough in recognition to the world famous UK naturalist and broadcaster — but that’s not what the public voted for. Oh no.
After former BBC Radio Jersey presenter James Hand jokingly suggested the council should go with Boaty McBoatface, the suggestion picked up a huge number of votes, quickly becoming the most popular name. Thankfully for the NERC, they announced from the beginning that the poll was non-binding in nature so they could opt for what they considered a “more appropriate” name.
Just last month, NASA announced the discovery of seven exoplanets in the Trappist system, three of which lie in the Goldilocks zone of potential habitability. Currently named Trappist-1b to h, the planets’ permanent nomenclature will be decided by the International Astronomical Union — but the opportunity to name them was too good for the collective creativity of the Internet to pass up on, and people are tweeting their ideas under the hashtag 7NamesFor7NewPlanets. Some suggestions are simply funny, we’ve seen some nods to cultural references, and some names that actually sound pretty good. And surely enough, “Planet McPlanetface” made it in the suggestions.
Here are some of the highlights, starting with the funnies.
— Idiotcracy (@idiotcracy) February 24, 2017
Lost it at Wanda.
— 👑🌎Lazy Dictator🌍👑 (@LazyDictator) February 24, 2017
Rumors say the new planets will have universal docking ports. We’ll have to wait and see. And, talking about planets that NASA says aren’t ‘really’ planets:
Planet of the Apes
— braggasnoruss.eth♧ (@Braggasnoruss) February 24, 2017
There’s also a lot of cultural referencing going on, with the names of great houses from Game of Thrones being suggested, the dwarfs’ names in Snow White, as well as nods to the Harry Potter books. But this one I enjoyed the most:
Some users have also pointed out the connection to Belgian beers of the same name, suggesting the planets be named after the Trappist breweries.
There’s also some activism going on under the hashtag:
— Heather Friesen (@pinklady_ktown) February 24, 2017
And this one, which probably best captures the gist of how half the US feels about the next 4 years.
Far from Trump1
Far from Trump2
Far from Trump3
Far from Trump4
Far from Trump5
Far from Trump6
Far from Trump7
— Mike Pons (@mikepons) February 24, 2017
Some users view the christenings as an opportunity to those who have sacrificed in humanity’s efforts to reach for the stars — several tweets call for the planets to be named for the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Challenger in 1986.
— Joseph Grohman (@joeygrohman) February 24, 2017
So will these suggestions actually make it on the star charts? Probably not.
“The TRAPPIST #7NamesFor7NewPlanets was a trending hashtag that was started by Twitter users, and we were simply joining an existing conversation by posting the current scientific names with the hashtag. We are not collecting suggestions, and we rely on the IAU’s process for the naming of these planets,” NASA’s Social Media Manager John Yembrick told me in an e-mail.
Seeing the generally light-hearted and humorous way these names are being suggested on Twitter, it’s unlikely that the IAU will actually go with any of them. But there are some good contenders tweeted under the hashtag, so the union may still surprise us in the end. Which means there’s still a tiny hope for Pluto.
Author’s note: Corrected the article after receiving NASA’s Social Media Manager John Yembrick’s email. Initially, it stated NASA started the hashtag to ask for suggestions for the new names; 1:50 am EET.