In a remarkable feat, Kenya continues to make waves in astronomy as it achieves yet another milestone in naming celestial bodies. Following last year’s successful participation in the NameExoWorlds campaign, Kenya has now secured its second exoplanet and host star with Kenyan names. The significance of this achievement lies not only in the recognition of Kenya’s cultural heritage but also in the country’s growing influence in the field of astronomy.
The team behind this accomplishment consisted of prominent individuals and institutions, including Penda Kujua, Leo Sky Africa, the Technical University of Kenya, the Kenya Space Agency, and the University of Nairobi. Together, they collaborated to come up with the approved name for the newly named exoplanet and its host star.
Previously, Kenya participated in the NameExoWorlds campaign, resulting in the naming of a star “Kalausi” and its accompanying exoplanet. The name “Kalausi,” meaning a strong whirlwind in the Dholuo language, carries the essence of Kenyan culture and has become a testament to the country’s rich linguistic diversity.
Building upon this success, the recent NameExoWorlds 2022 contest has now bestowed a Kenyan name upon a second exoplanet and its host star. Enaiposha, named after a large body of water like a lake or sea in the Maa language spoken in Kenya and Tanzania, is a fitting tribute to the captivating exoplanet GJ 1214 b. GJ 1214 b, known as a “sub-Neptune” due to its intermediate size between Earth and Neptune, has been extensively studied by scientists and continues to fascinate researchers around the globe.
Accompanying Enaiposha is the star GJ 1214, which hosts the planetary system. This celestial body, now bearing the name Orkaria, further highlights the cultural significance of the naming initiative. Orkaria adds depth and meaning to the exoplanetary system, connecting Kenya’s rich heritage to the wonders of the cosmos. The selection of Enaiposha and Orkaria as the second exoplanet and star to be given Kenyan names emphasize the country’s growing prominence in the field of astronomy. It underscores Kenya’s commitment to expanding scientific knowledge and promoting public engagement in astronomical exploration.
Through the NameExoWorlds campaigns, the International Astronomical Union recognizes and celebrates the importance of cultural connections to the celestial realm. By incorporating indigenous languages and cultural themes, the initiative fosters a sense of inclusivity and encourages a global appreciation for the wonders of the universe.
With each named exoplanet and host star, Kenya’s presence on the international astronomical stage becomes more pronounced. These achievements inspire, fueling the curiosity and passion of current and future generations of astronomers and space enthusiasts in Kenya and beyond.