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An artist's impression of a Jupiter twin orbiting a distant star. Image: ESO/L. Benassi

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) — the body responsible for assigning official names to cosmic objects discovered by humanity — wants people around the world to help name planets and stars far away from our own solar system.

Why it matters: The IAU initiative can help democratize what’s usually an opaque naming process. "Each nation's designated star is visible from that country, and sufficiently bright to be observed through small telescopes," the IAU wrote in a news release.

Details: So far, nearly 100 countries have signed up to take part in the naming program, and more can still join until July 30.

  • The IAU wants each country to organize a national campaign for the naming, where citizens can participate by offering suggestions for what the exoplanets and stars should be called.
  • Each country's national committee will ask the public to vote on a few names. The winner will then be submitted to the IAU.
  • The IAU will announce the newly chosen names in December.

Go deeper: Find out if your country is participating in the program and what star and planet it has been assigned here.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.