1253: Exoplanet Names

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Exoplanet Names
If you have any ideas, I hear you can send them to iaupublic@iap.fr.
Title text: If you have any ideas, I hear you can send them to [email protected]


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: 1253: Exoplanet Names
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

On the 14th August 2013, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) issued a document about public naming of astronomical objects. It stated, "IAU fully supports the involvement of the general public, whether directly or through an independent organised vote, in the naming of planetary satellites, newly discovered planets, and their host stars." It also contained, amongst other things, guidelines that suggested names should meet. These include stipulations such as "16 characters or less", "preferably one word", being "pronounceable (in as many languages as possible)", "not too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object", avoiding commercial names, and being "respectful of intellectual property". If we go down the list, we can see that many of Randall's suggestions do indeed violate the guidelines. Which is probably part of the joke.

The document also states that suggestions may be sent to the email mentioned in the title text.

Star Planet Suggested Name Explanation
Gliese b Space Planet A very unoriginal name; every planet is in space.
c PILF Pun of MILF, i.e. Planet I'd Like to Fuck. Planet c is a relatively hot planet, within the habitable zone.
d A Star "A Star" is obviously a bad name for a planet. A* (pronounced "A star") is already used in in astronomy, for example the Milky Way's black hole core is Sagittarius A*. "A star" is also the name for the character asterisk and the name of the popular A* search algorithm in computer science.
e e'); DROP TABLE PLANETS;-- A reference to SQL injection, riffing off of comic 327, which featured a schoolboy named Robert'); DROP TABLE students;--. The idea here is that the IAU would enter the name into their system and promptly lose all of their data pertaining to planets. Note that Planet e is located in the habitable zone of the star system.
f Blogosphere Weird blog-related terms are a recurring theme in xkcd. See, for instance, comic 181.
g Blogodrome
h Earth Planet candidate h is about the mass of the Earth, and described as "tantalizing": A dynamically-packed planetary system around GJ with three super-Earths in its habitable zone. See also (1231: Habitable Zone).
Tau Ceti b Sid Meier's Tau Ceti B This refers to the game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
c Giant Dog Planet VY Canis Majoris is one of the largest known stars at our galaxy and belongs to the constellation Canis Major, Latin for "greater dog". The constellation further contains Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, also called "Dog Star".
d Tiny Dog Planet cf. Canis Minor, Latin for "lesser dog", another constellation.
e Phil Plainet A reference to Phil Plait, a.k.a. The Bad Astronomer.
f Unicode Snowman The Unicode character may be a reference to the planet's estimated surface temperature of . However, this name would be pronounced differently (being a symbol, not a word or name) in different languages.
Gliese 832 b Asshole Jupiter This massive planet orbits a red dwarf star at the longest known period of 3416 days at this category.
Gliese 581 b Waist-deep Cats Waist Deep is an action film from 2006, and the Lolcat meme does not need explaining. The name may also simply be a reference to being "waist-deep" in (i.e. surrounded by many) cats.
c Planet #14 About 200th discovered exoplanet (in 2007); reported to be the first potentially Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of its star, though that is in doubt now. The joke might be that like "Space Planet", "Planet #14" is a generic and unoriginal name. Also note that this is the 15th entry in the table.

An interesting (?) coincidence is that the 14th and 15th Minor planets (then called asteroids) were discovered in 1851; see see List of minor planets: 1–1000. If they were to be counted among the planets of the Solar System, as was sometimes done then, the 14th known planetary body would be 7 Iris (discovered in 1847, a year before Neptune).

d Ballderaan A crude pun on the planet Alderaan from the Star Wars universe.
e Eternia Prime Eternia is a fictional planet, venue of the Masters of the Universe animated series and toy collection.
f Taupe Mars Kim Stanley Robinson's award-winning Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars after various stages of terraformation). Taupe is a brownish-grey colour.
g Jelly-Filled Planet Possibly a reference to the conjecture that this tidally locked planet has an isolated habitable zone under the substellar point, akin to the pocket of jelly in a jelly doughnut.
Epsilon Eridani b Skydot SkyDOT is the Sky Database for Objects in Time-Domain run by LANL for the U.S. Dept. of Energy and includes data for Epsilon Eridani that can be used to constrain the orbital parameters of ε Eri b.
c Laser Noises A Laser does not produce noise in the signal sense; it only works at a well defined frequency. In science fiction films, however, laser weapon discharges are usually accompanied by sound. Sun-like Epsilon Eridani became a popular setting for science fiction after its publicity as a target of the Project Ozma experiment.
Gliese 176 b Pandora The mythological name Pandora fulfills most of IAU's guidelines and has been popular for planets in science fiction; most recently and famously is the venue of James Cameron's Avatar (although actually it is not a planet but just a moon of a gas giant in Alfa Centauri A). It is also a hellish planet from Frank Herbert's WorShip series of novels, a jungle planet in Brothers Strugatsky's Noon Universe and the planet used in Borderlands Games.
c Pantera Named for the heavy metal band - which was named after an Italian sports car, the De Tomaso Pantera.
Kepler-61 b GoldenPalace.com A gambling website, known for paying to have their name in unusual places (like forehead tattoos, species names...).
(right column)
Upsilon Andromedae c Stampy The name of the elephant from the Simpsons episode Bart Gets an Elephant.
d Moonchild The name Bastian gives the Childlike Empress in The Neverending Story.
e Ham Sphere HamSphere is a Ham Radio simulator program. Ham radio uses designated radio frequencies for non-commercial exchange of messages and more. A pun of Hemisphere.
HD 20794 b Cosmic Sands A pun on the name of the font Comic Sans. (See also: 590: Papyrus.)
c Legoland Legoland is a chain of theme parks owned by the Lego Group.
d Planet with Arms A reference to the early covers of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?
HD 85512 b Lax Morality Possibly a parody of science fiction in which certain planets are suggested to be uniformly... lax in morals (i.e. full of sex, drugs, etc.). See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Planetville and related.
HD 40307 b Good Planet Similar to the above, except with good planets. May also be yet another non-descriptive name, like "Space Planet" and "Planet #14".
c ProblemLand See above.
d Slickle This is a reference to "The Petals Fall Twice", which was made as a humorous example of bad fan-fiction. The word itself is a portmanteau of "slowly", "licked", and "tickled".
e Spare Parts This suggests that the planet is "worthless" or "junk". This is false, of course. May be a reference to the fact it is a planet with nothing much different from the other planets.
f New Jersey VI Refers to the state of New Jersey; may be an insult to either.
g How Do I Join the IAU This implies that the user "got lost" on the IAU website and thought that the "planet name suggestion" input was for general queries.
Gliese 163 b Neil Tyson's Mustache Neil deGrasse Tyson is a famous American astrophysicist and science communicator who does maintain a distinguished mustache.
c [email protected] Similar to "How Do I Join the IAU", this implies that the user confused the "planet suggestion" text box for a new email they are trying to send
d Hair-Covered Planet Refers to the well-known Hairy ball theorem of topology.
Pi Mensae b Moon Holder Jupiter has more than 60 discovered moons, and still counting... A planet ten times more massive must also be a Moon Holder.
HD 189733 b Permadeath A well-characterized "Hot Jupiter" at a temperature range of 973 ± 33 K to 1,212 ± 11 K. The name refers to the feature of Permanent death common in many RPGs and roguelikes.
Kepler-22 b Blue Ivy Blue Ivy Carter is the daughter of musicians Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
Kepler-3284 b Blainsley
Kepler-3255 b Unicorn Thresher
Kepler-2418 b Spherical Discworld The Discworld is the fictional setting for British author Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of humorous fantasy novels; it consists of a large disc supported by four elephants themselves standing on top of a turtle flying through space.
Kepler-1686 b Emergency Backup Earth This candidate planet has an Earth Similarity Index of 0.89, making it one of the most habitable Kepler object of Interest. The name suggests that it could be used as a backup in case something happened to our current planet.
Kepler-3010 b Feeeoooooooop Possibly the onomatopoeia for something getting sucked into a black hole.
Kepler-4742 b Liz ...Just a regular name (for a person, not a planet).


August 2013:
The International Astronomical Union decides to start naming exoplanets, and—for the first time ever—asks for suggestions from the general public.
They immediately regret this decision.
Cueball‏‎: Can't you filter out the worst ones?
The rightmost person: This is after the filter!

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This comic is referenced in 1555: Exoplanet Names 2 (https://xkcd.com/1555/). 04:54, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

One of the planets is similar to the child in Exploits of a Mom (http://xkcd.com/327/) Robert Drop Tables 12:12, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

Yes, they've seemed to have learned to sanitize their data inputs or just stick to parameters. 12:33, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

Hair covered planet might be a reference to the book The Carpet Makers (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The Blogosphere and Blogodrome planets are cited as synonyms of "blog." I believe this is an error, in that blogosphere is synonymous with "the collection of all posted communication." I would change it myself, but I don't feel like I'm sufficiently expert to state with conviction. ~Anthingy (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm still missing the New Netherlands... Lorenz 15:34, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

Along with no New Netherlands, I'm also disappointed to see Planet #14 but no Planet 9 from Outer Space. Ccurtis (talk) 16:04, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

I'm sure my explain does cover this very well.--Dgbrt (talk) 23:04, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't understand your comment here. I was hoping for a reference to Plan 9 From Outer Space, arguably one of the worst movies ever made and inspiration for the successor Unix operating system, Plan 9. Ccurtis (talk) 14:09, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

If memory serves, Stampy is the name of Bart Simpson's elephant. 17:59, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

A* ("a star") is also a pathfinding algorithm taught in introductory Artificial Intelligence classes. I don't see the connection to the planet yet. Lastorset (talk) 22:19, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

For the first, I did remove the corrupt wiki link. --Dgbrt (talk) 23:23, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

I just wonder where New Jerseys II through V are .... JamesCurran (talk) 03:24, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

Skydot could as easily be equivalent to the "Pale blue dot" that is Earth, from afar. New Jersey VI reminds me of the "New (New New New New .. New) New York" as visited in Doctor Who. [email protected] is either another bad input (as in "How Do I Join the IAU") or something more insidious. Moon Holder also reminds me of "Moon Watcher" from the (book of, at least) 2001: a Space Odyssey. Blainsley sounds to me like one of those portmanteau-names applied to a couple ("Blair-and-Ainsley"?). Unicorn Thresher could either be a random word string (I'd not have been surprisedto have seen "Correct Horse battery Staple" in the list) or perhaps something to do with the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Liz sounds like someone trying to get a planet named after their girlfriend or daughter or perhaps mother. 11:39, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

Anyone want an exoplanet named xkcd? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I was personally expecting a planet named "Gallifrey" or "Too expensive to get there, who cares?" (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Maybe New Jersey VI is a reference to the Spaceship New Jersey from Bruce Covill's young adult "My Teacher Is An Alien" series? -Jed 00:47, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

I find it very meta that the line in the table explaining Cosmic Sands is formatted in Comic Sans, except for the reference to the Papyrus comic, which is written in Papyrus. I refer anyone interested to the discussion there about the propriety of that kind of self-referential cleverness, and I recognize that it sort of undermines the purpose of a wiki to do things therein that themselves require explanation... but I kinda like it. --Benny 15:50, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

How Do I Join the IAU - instead of a lost user it very much resembles whinning of noobs in forums or in chat - "How Do I Get An Op?", "Please Mail It To Me" etc. Ballderaan might be a pun (if it's not actually there) on the Space Balls movie. --Ed 14:04, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

permadeath might also be a play on permafrost. Peter (talk) 17:01, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

Is Moonchild not an Aleister Crowley reference? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think, that [email protected] is a pun for the fact, that you usaually don't get any help writing to that address or that it is usually hard to communicate with google 12:32, 4 October 2013 (UTC) Christian

Since computer scientists often start at zero instead of one when numbering things, the 15th in the list would be Planet #14 W3steve (talk) 23:25, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

Planet With Arms might also refer to the Birds With Arms thing on Reddit, where people humorously photoshop arms onto the bird pictures. 21:10, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

I think the inclusion of Blue Ivy is a swipe at Beyonce and Jay-Z trademarking their daughter's name. Presumably, as well as being two words, it would be ineligible as a planet name for violating the guidelines on "avoiding commercial names, and being 'respectful of intellectual property'". 15:48, 15 September 2015 (UTC)

"A star" is a planet not a star. I thought that was the joke. 06:46, 18 October 2015 (UTC)

With recent developments in British ocean research, should we add a reference to "Boaty McBoatface"? Like M.Splashy Pants and the Mountain Dew flavour, this led the polls when the parent organization put the name of their cutting-edge research vessel to internet vote.-- 22:18, 29 March 2016 (UTC)

Do it. Jkshapiro (talk) 02:50, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

[email protected] seems like a Douglas Adams reference, where he describes the complaints department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation takes up several planets. Here's the quote. Yissachar1498 (talk) 10:59, 24 November 2019 (UTC)

you all missed the point of "a star"

it suggests that the planet

is a star

you got nerdsniped and not one of you noticed 20:50, 12 July 2020 (UTC)

Isn't Ballderaan just an anagram of Aldebaran? 17:29, 29 June 2021 (UTC)

"Aldebaran" has only one "l", but close. Nitpicking (talk) 05:08, 23 November 2021 (UTC)

I had assumed that "asshole Jupiter" was a reference to "hot Jupiter", the term for exoplanet gas giants with orbital periods of less than 10 days. Nitpicking (talk) 05:08, 23 November 2021 (UTC)