The Moon slides past the planet Saturn the next couple of nights. Saturn is to the upper left of the Moon as darkness falls tonight. It’ll be closer to the right of the Moon tomorrow night. The planet looks like a bright star.
Saturn is named for a Roman god. In ancient Greece, he was known as Cronus. He was the leader of the Titans, who came before the gods of Olympus.
Saturn is passing through Aquarius. The constellation is home to many stars that host their own planets. And like Saturn, many of those worlds have more than one name.
All of the planets bear the names of their stars followed by a letter of the alphabet, starting with “b.” The letters indicate the order of a planet’s discovery around its star.
Over the past few years, the International Astronomical Union has been assigning formal names to exoplanets. The latest batch was announced this year. It includes two planets in Aquarius.
The names were submitted as part of a competition. They come from many cultures and eras.
The planet HATS-72b was named Zembretta, after a tiny island off the coast of Tunisia. And WASP-69b was named Makombe, after a stream that feeds a major river in Cameroon. Both planets are giants — the size of Saturn or bigger. And they’re quite close to their parent stars, so they’re quite hot.
There’s no guarantee that astronomers will actually use the new names. But they offer a new way to think about some far-off worlds.
Script by Damond Benningfield