Latvia names a star and planet in historic first

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For the first time in Latvian history the country had the opportunity to name a star and a planet, and the name Liesma (Flame) was chosen for the star, while the planet was named Staburags after a famous cliff on the Daugava river bank, astronomer Ilmārs Eglītis told Latvian Television's “4. Studija” broadcast on December 28.

“Of course we can be proud that this name has been assigned, that we were noticed in this field. Not all countries are granted this honorable opportunity, only those who have a real impact on the advancement of astronomy,” said Eglītis.

On the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union several member countries, including Latvia, were given the opportunity to give a star and planet names, which are significant to each chosen country. They will now be referred to by the selected names, instead of the catalog numbers.

All summer Latvian residents were given the opportunity to hand in possible names. Latvian Astronomical Society Project Manager Mārtiņš Gills revealed that some of the other popular names were Laima, Laimdota, Māra and Ūsiņš.

“Out of the first suggestions, more than half were associated with mythological figures, or ethnographic, or folk figures, or you could say gods,” said Gills.

“We received more than 100 suggestions. They can't be associated with politics, nor with commercial activity or living persons. Unfortunately there's also a 100-year embargo on persons living after 1919 to understand whether the person was good or not,” said GIlls.

Ten names were chosen from the suggestions, which were then voted on by 2040 people from the Astronomical Society. An absolute majority voted for the star to be named Liesma and the exoplanet to be named Staburags. The specific star was chosen so that it can be visible from Latvia year-round with a telescope.

The star Liesma is larger than the Sun and belongs to the subgiant category. The exoplanet was discovered in 2014 and is two times larger than Jupiter, the largest planet in the Sun's solar system, but isn't really visible as it's located very close to the star itself.

“It's a large, gaseous planet. So it can't contain a civilization, because such planets as Jupiter are located outside of the zone that can sustain life,” said Eglītis.

The new Latvian star is located 300 lightyears away, so theoretically communication with the star isn't possible, according to Gills.

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