Belgium received its own planet (and can name it as well)
Friday, 07 June 2019
Belgium's official exoplanet and star have been named after Celtic Belgae tribes that used to inhabit the region. Credit: International Astronomical Union
Belgium now has its own exoplanet, which it received as a gift from the International Astronomical Union.
D49674b is the original name of the exoplanet, which is a planet in a different solar system, that is now owned by Belgium. The planet is located in the Auriga constellation and was discovered in 2002. Like Neptune in our solar system, the exoplanet is a gas giant. D49674b has a mass 31,783 times larger than that of the Earth, and only needs 4.9 days to complete an orbit around her star.
Belgium received the exoplanet as a gift from the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the largest organisation for astronomers with more than 13,500 professional members. As the organisation is celebrating its 100th birthday, it grants an exoplanet to every country in the world to make people think about our place in the universe and the way extraterrestrial civilisations would look at Earth.
Each country may name their exoplanet themselves. In the Netherlands, the general public will probably be able to vote on the name of their exoplanet. According to a professor of astronomy at KU Leuven, Leen Decin, Belgium has a similar plan.
All exoplanets distributed by the IAU are visible from the countries that have received them, and always clear enough to observe with a small telescope. “Auriga is a constellation in the shape of a W, and is perfectly visible in Belgium,” Decin said VRT NWS.
All countries have until November to propose a name for their exoplanet, and the organisation will present them in December.