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.

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