Planet HAT-P-9b, aka Alef, (right) and planet Jupiter
Planet HAT-P-9b, aka Alef, right, in a size comparison with the planet Jupiter
Photo: The Astrophysical Journal
Planet HAT-P-9b, aka Alef, right, in a size comparison with the planet Jupiter

First 'Israeli' planet named after Hebrew letter Alef

More than 20,000 users choose name out of 1,600 different suggestions submitted via Israel Space Agency online poll; science minister praises 'interesting and respectable choice'

Itamar Eichner |
Published: 12.18.19 , 16:12
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Space announced on Monday that it will be naming a planet after the Hebrew letter Alef.
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  • The unique name was chosen in an online poll set by the Israel Space Agency, in which over 20,000 users picked the winner out of 1,600 different user-submitted suggestions.
    Planet HAT-P-9b, aka Alef, (right) and planet JupiterPlanet HAT-P-9b, aka Alef, (right) and planet Jupiter
    Planet HAT-P-9b, aka Alef, right, in a size comparison with the planet Jupiter
    (Photo: The Astrophysical Journal)
    The competition was held on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Association, which is the only institution authorized to assign names to celestial bodies.
    As part of the project, the IAU offered dozens of countries the chance to name a planet and a star in solar systems outside of the Milky Way.
    So far, over 400,000 people from 110 countries have voted which name they liked the most for their respective country's planet.
    Israel is among the leading countries in the number of suggested planet names and the number of voters who actively participated in the poll.
    The letter Alef, a word that stems from the proto-Semitic word for "bull" and its written form resembles an ox's head, has an abundance of different meanings.
    It's the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is also used as a vowel.
    In set theory, a branch of mathematics or of symbolic logic that deals with the nature and relations of sets, the letter Alef is used to indicate the strength of an infinite set - another symbolism, as the universe is also believed to be infinite.
    In Kabbalah, a school of thought in Jewish mysticism, Alef symbolizes the unity of the Lord.
    Alef's mother star TevelAlef's mother star Tevel
    Alef's mother star Tevel
    (Photo: The Astrophysical Journal)
    Alef's mother star will be called Tevel, a flowery Hebrew term for "universe." The star's name also begins with the letter Tav – the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
    Both names were chosen to symbolize completeness – from Alef to Tav, from A to Z, from Alpha to Omega.
    Alef, aka HAT-P-9b by its scientific name, is located 1,500 light-years from planet Earth in the Auriga constellation, which is home to other planets named by various different countries, such as Luxembourg and Belgium.
    Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis welcomed the name choice.
    "This is an interesting and respectable choice by the Israeli public, who participated en masse to determine the name for the new planet of the State of Israel," said Akunis in a statement.
    "This is further proof of the increasing interest huge audiences discover in the fields of science, technology and innovation, which were made more accessible to the public in the last four years thanks to extensive investments."
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