And then may come some proper planet names. Exoplanets are presently referred to by their host star plus a letter (a, b, c…) depending on how many other planets are present in the system, and the stars themselves are typically just cataloged by the first syllable or two of the constellation that they appear in, with some digits before or after; hence those R2D2-like designations.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU), which officially names heavenly bodies, has resisted naming exoplanets, for now. "But once we find some really important, Earth-like ones, the IAU will probably be forced to make a naming decision," Cash says. And with 50 billion exoplanets–plus waiting for names, who knows? Maybe our grandchildren will grow up learning about real planets with names dreamed up by George Lucas.