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Exoplanet and star gain names from Finnish mythology

112 nations worldwide named their own new exoplanets and their host stars.

Havainnekuva eksoplaneetasta.
Artist's impression of an exoplanet's landscape. Image: AOP

Astronomical society Ursa on Wednesday announced Finland's entries to the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) centenary project to give new names to a series of exoplanets and their host stars.

Finland was among the 112 countries that got to nickname a planet and star outside of our solar system. The Finnish exoplanet HAT-P-38b, a gas giant, was named Hiisi, referring to ancient holy sites in Baltic-Finnic mythology. Its Sun-like host star received the name Horna, an old Finnish word referring to a fiery place or the underworld. Both celestial bodies are some 800 light years away from Earth.

A year on planet Hiisi lasts just 4.6 Earth days, Ursa said.

The names were chosen from among 2,000 suggestions and more than 4,000 votes cast by members of the public. Upwards of 360,000 names were put forward globally and more than 400,000 people around the world voted on their favourite names.

"The IAU is delighted to see the broad international interest that this NameExoWorlds campaign has generated," IAU President-elect Debra Elmegreen said in the IAU release. "It is gratifying that so many people across the globe have helped create a name for a planetary system that is meaningful to their culture and heritage. This effort helps unite us all in our exploration of the universe."

The University of Helsinki said that further Finnish contributions to the nomenclature of exoplanets will continue in the mythological vein. Finding new exoplanets is difficult because of their size, remoteness and proximity to their host stars, Ursa wrote.

Astronomers predict that there are likely to be at least 46 billion planets the size of Earth in our Milky Way galaxy alone.

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