Dubai: What’s in a name? Everything, apparently.
A name is so important that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) even held a global competition to name all the newly discovered stars and planets of 2019.
Overall, 360,000 proposals for names were received by the IAU. An IAU National Committee from 112 countries reduced their proposals to a shortlist of national candidates, which were presented to the public for their votes. A total of 420,000 people voted for their preferred candidates.
In a statement, the IAU announced that one of the newly discovered stars – HIP 79431 – was named as "Sharjah" and the planet affiliated with this star was named "Barjeel." A barajeel is a wind tower used to direct the flow of the wind so that air can be recirculated as a form of air conditioning.
Eric Mamajek, co-chair of the NameExoWorlds Steering Committee, said in a statement: “Astronomical observations over the past generation have now discovered over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets. The number of discoveries continues to double about every 2 and a half years, revealing remarkable new planet populations and putting our own Earth and solar system in perspective. Statistically, most of the stars in the sky are likely to be orbited by their own planets – they are everywhere.”
The announcement came during the IAU’s conference to celebrate the centenary of the federation in the French capital, Paris. This is only the second time in history that a campaign has led to the naming of stars and exoplanets.
The International Astronomical Union was established in 1919.
“While astronomers catalogue their new discoveries using telephone-number-like designations, there has been growing interest amongst astronomers and the public alike in also assigning proper names, as is done for solar system bodies,” said Mamajek.
The IAU said it appreciated the achievement Sharjah has made in different field which won it the title of the Capital of Arab Culture, the title of the Capital of Islamic Culture and the title of the World Book Capital.
Sharjah is the cultural capital of United Arab Emirates, and is considered as the city of knowledge due to its many educational centers, institutes, museums, libraries and heritage centres.