Planets have been in the news a lot lately, what with Pluto being demoted and all. Yesterday brought the announcement of a puffy planet larger than Jupiter. This is fascinating stuff, but here’s what I don’t get: how do they choose the names for these distant planets? Here in our neighborhood, scientists choose mythological names that might mean something. So the troublemaker out near Pluto was named Eris.
But the new puffy planet has been named HAT-P-1, while another planet mentioned alongside it is HD 209458b. I wondered where these names came from. The Space.com article finally makes clear that HAT-P-1 was found by a network of telescopes named HAT, so I guess it’s the first planet found with that network. But that means that a future HAT-P-2 could be on the other side of the galaxy, hundreds of light-years from HAT-P-1. And poor HD 209458b: is there an HD 209458a? Why not take the time to give them more interesting names?