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Moroccans name an exoplanet and its star after legendary Amazigh lovers Isli and Tislit

Discovered in 2018 by Morocco’s Oukaimeden Observatory, an exoplanet and its star were named by Moroccans after two legendary Amazigh lovers. Isli and Tislit were named through a contest initiated by the International Astronomical Union and conducted by Moroccan scholars.

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To those who enjoy Romeo and Juliet-style stories, the Moroccan version of the tragedy has now literally reached for the stars. Tuesday, in Paris, an exoplanet and its host star were named after the two Amazigh lovers Isli and Tislit.

Isli and Tislit, which refer to two lakes located in the heart of the Great Atlas, 5 km and 16 km respectively from Imilchil center, are the names of a legendary man and woman whose union was prevented by the hostility between their respective tribes.

However, their legendary love story is experiencing a new phase, up in the space, thanks to this special naming process. In fact, the exoplanet (Isli) and its host star (Tislit) were named by Moroccans. The process was launched by professional astronomers association the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The project, dubbed «NameExoWorlds», was part of a global campaign, launched earlier this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the body and «allow any country in the world to give a popular name to a selected exoplanet and its host star».

Isli and Tislit, Moroccans' final choice

And that was the case for Morocco, where the IAU National Outreach Coordinator held a naming contest for the exoplanet and its star. The Moroccan body was entrusted with the mission «on the condition that it is held on a large scale», Oukaimeden Observatory Director Zouhair Benkhaldoun told Yabiladi on Wednesday.

To the astronomy professor, the contest was based on the idea that «everyone can participate to the naming operation and propose names for the exoplanet and star».

And while other countries were expected to name random exoplanets and their stars, the Moroccan team in charge of the campaign asked the IAU to only name an exoplanet and a star that were discovered through Morocco’s Oukaimden Observatory.

«Fortunately, our request was accepted and we could name Isli and Tislit», said Benkhaldoun who headed the Moroccan naming committee. The latter included «astronomy scholars and people who are interested in astronomy (…) they were six men and six women», he added.

The naming committee then launched the contest on its website, inviting the public to submit their suggestions as a first step. Indeed, the body received 77 proposals, as announced Tuesday by the IAU’s Twitter account.

The naming contest included a voting phase, which had the final say on the submitted suggestions. «Around 900 people participated in the vote and finally Isli and Tislit were chosen», Benkhaldoun explained.

Indeed, Isli and Tislit received 24,8 % of the vote, while the rest was unequally distributed among other names, such as Barq and Boraq, Titrit and Asif and Zamour and Tifinar.

«The contest targeted everyone, internet users and people who simply wanted to participate in the naming process. We made it official and issued a press release», Benkhaldoun said, adding that «people were free to choose, but they had to justify their suggestions».

For the record, before it was dubbed Tislit, the star was known as WASP-161 while the exoplanet orbiting around it now called Isli was known as WASP-161 b.

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