Malta has the opportunity to choose the official name of a distant planet as part of a global initiative by international astronomers.
The NameExoWorlds project, celebrating 100 years since the founding of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), gives each country the chance to name an exoplanet, that is one outside the solar system, and the star it orbits.
The planet Malta will get to name is a gas giant known as HAT-P-34 b, located around 838 lightyears away in the constellation Sagitta. Discovered in 2011, it is slightly larger than Jupiter and around seven times its mass.
The name - which can be in Maltese or English - will be chosen from nominations by the public and after a public vote, with the process coordinated by a national committee made up of astronomers and academics.
There are some rules, however.
The IAU has said the proposed names should be “of things, people, or places of long-standing cultural, historical, or geographical significance, worthy of being assigned to a celestial object.”
Moreover, the names cannot refer to “individuals, places or events principally known for political, military or religious activities”, living individuals or those who died less than a century ago.
The names also cannot be made-up, or refer to organisations and commercial enterprises.
More information on how to participate can be found through the Astronomical Society of Malta.
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