Exoplanet Name Contest Winners Announced

Exoplanet and exomoons illustration


Derrick Pitts, Hon.D

On December 17, 2019, the International Astronomical Union announced results for the Name Exoworlds contest for each participating country. We are pleased to announce the winning name pair for the US star and exoplanet system HD17156. 

Star: Nushagak
Nushagak is a regional river near Dillingham, Alaska, which is famous for its wild salmon that sustain local indigenous communities.

Planet: Mulchatna
The Mulchatna River is a tributary of the Nushagak River in southwestern Alaska, USA

Ivory Adajar of Dillingham, AK submitted these names. Here's why: 

“It was indigenous peoples' naming that they wanted, so naturally being indigenous Alaska Native from Dillingham I thought of the names of the rivers I grew up fishing and that was really dear to me,” said Adajar, “To honor my people and my heritage and my love for the way of life there.”

“I was very thankful, I was very excited, and I was humbled and honored,” Adajar said when asked how she felt about the news, “To be given these names for my home, my people, and my way of life.”

A news media article featuring the official name certificate can be found here: "Alaska Native names chosen for star and exoplanet light-years away"

The runners up were:

• Yellowstone and Old Faithful (submitted by Elaad Applebaum)
• Sequoyah and Cherokee (submitted by Mickey Kulp)

Map of the Nushagak region:

View the official selection methodology and guidelines.

The US Naming Committee members are:

• Carmen Pantoja, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus
• Derrick Pitts, The Franklin Institute
• Stephen Pompea, National Optical Astronomy Observatory 
• Timothy Spuck, AUI
• Vivian White, Astronomical Society of the Pacific
• Yasmin Catricheo, AUI