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Who , when and where was the term 'exoplanet' coined?

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I very much doubt it would be possible to know this sort of thing with any precision. The best I can do is note that in searching on the Astrophysics Data System, the earliest published occurrences of the term are from 1992, e.g., a short article entitled "Searching for exoplanets" by Bernard Burke in what was probably a conference proceeding. (The actual article is not available, alas.) Some of these papers use "exo-planet" instead of "exoplanet", which suggests the term was new enough for people to still be uncertain about how to spell it.

This 1992 report from a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society mentions a talk by Burke in which he "... described the work of the NASA Science Working Group on Exoplanetary Systems between the years 1985 and 1992..." So it's possible the term (or at least the adjectival form) goes back to the 1980s.

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After an extensive Google search, I found this. Quoting last sentence of 4th paragraph:

It is only in the last 25 years that we have been able to say with complete certainty that these planets exist, so the term “exoplanet” was coined to describe them.

Obviously, the last part of the sentence refers to the future of the moment before 25 years. It was written in 2018. Thus, the term exoplanet was coined around 1993.

You can believe me, I have done lots of googling, and I can tell you that the name of the person and the place are almost certainly unknown. But there is still a possibility that the name is actually known. I personally believe that IAU has come up with this term as an organization, but I am not sure because it is not stated anywhere explicitely.

Another name for exoplanet is extrasolar planet. After some thinking I figured out one possibility: When the people at IAU used this term often, it became hard to say it fast. Somebody came up with the shortened version exoplanet and that quickly stuck as term for this. They started using it gradually, so the name of the original person is maybe lost. So, maybe that was once just jargon at IAU, but that quickly got stuck in media and also in general audience.

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    $\begingroup$ every planet which is not Earth is extraterrestrial. You mean 'extrasolar planet' - a wording also often used. $\endgroup$ Jun 9 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I also believe that the term "exoplanet" was not coined by a single person but rather by the organization. For centuries, many scientists and astronomers suspected planets outside solar system though they didn't have the right tools to observe and it was only possible in the 20th century. Moreover, it is not a hard word that has to be "coined". It rather makes sense: "exo" means external/outside, "planet" is "planet". So, that literally becomes "outside planet". Anybody could have come up with that. $\endgroup$ Jun 10 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ @planetmaker Yes, edited. $\endgroup$
    – User123
    Jun 10 at 6:29
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I can just add a little additional information: Google ngram shows a nice exponential grow for the term "exoplanet" starting in the mid-1990s.

exoplanet ngram

Fun fact: The earliest exoplanet HD 114762 b was announced in 1989 according to NASA's exoplanet catalog. The original article is paywalled, so I am not sure whether the authors used the term "exoplanet" back then.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you maybe get the accurate year when it was first used? It seems that around 1994. $\endgroup$
    – User123
    Jun 10 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @User123 I would be careful with definite statements deduced from ngram, it very much depends on the used text corpus. $\endgroup$
    – B--rian
    Jun 10 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ According to Wikipedia HD 114762 b is actually a red dwarf star although it was originally thought to be a planet. $\endgroup$
    – sno
    Jun 10 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ This explains why the term "exoplanet" spiked in the 90s (because of the confirmed detection of two planets around pulsar PSR B1257+12 on 1992 leading to increase in the relevancy of the term "exoplanet"). $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ @User123 We can also see some definite rise in the late 80s due to the discovery of HD 114762 b, the first "suspected" scientifically detected exoplanet. $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 7:09

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