Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had some suggestions for NASA about the organization's new discovery in space. In a highly anticipated press conference Wednesday, NASA announced that it had discovered seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star 40 light years, or 235 trillion miles away. Tyson tweeted Friday what he thought the planets should be named.
“The 7 newly discovered Earth-sized planets orbit a “Red Dwarf” star, so perhaps they should each be named after the 7 dwarfs,” Tyson wrote.
Many planets outside our solar system have technical names like PSR1257 + 12 B or 55 Cancri, but Tyson’s suggestions would put the planets names more in line with those in our own solar system. Aside from Earth, all seven planets and Pluto, now considered a “dwarf planet,” have names derived from Greek or Roman mythology.
And suggestions for names have come from far less conventional places than Tyson’s Twitter. Pluto was named by an 11-year-old girl from England, who suggested the name to her grandfather as he read about the discovery in a newspaper in 1930. Her grandfather mentioned the suggestion to a friend who was an astronomy professor. The professor brought the suggestion to a meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society, where it was resoundingly accepted.
Whatever they’ll be named, the discovery of the seven planets is a significant step forward in the search for life in space because three of them could possibly have water.
“This discovery could be a significant piece of the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “Answering the question ‘are we alone?’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson attends a screening for 'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey' in New York City, Jun. 4, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
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