What's With the Crazy Names?

Astronomy is complicated enough, so why do astronomers give exoplanets such confusing names? The simple answer is that exoplanets are named after the stars they orbit, with lowercase letters tacked on in the order the planets are discovered. But if the system's so simple, why are the names so complicated? That's because, in order to have an idea of where a star is located, they sometimes include the galactic equivalent of latitude and longitude in the name, making their monikers pretty unwieldy in the process.

If you're fascinated by the prospect of other life in the universe, look no further than GJ667Cc, an exoplanet confirmed in 2012. This planet is heralded as the best new candidate for life because it orbits comfortably inside the habitable zone of its host star.

As we mentioned, the perfect place for human colonization would have Goldilocks qualities -- features that aren't too cold for liquid water but not too hot to boil the stuff away either. GJ667Cc meets these standards and then some. It's about five times bigger than Earth and takes 28 days or so to orbit a star that's much dimmer than our sun. Two other stars exist in this exoplanet's system, but they're farther away -- at a distance similar to Saturn and Pluto from Earth.

We'll have to find out more before giving an exoplanet that's 22 light-years away an Earth-like reputation.