Okay so the name Alpha Centauri Bb for the newly discovered exoplanet around a star in the nearest star system to our sun is … less than inspiring. Plus you’ve got to admire the pluck of space company Uwingu, which recently (March 19, 2013) launched a three-week public outreach campaign to determine the people’s choice for the name for this nearest of known planets orbiting around other stars. They’re calling it a contest, because the name getting the highest number of votes will be declared, as Uwingu said in its press release “the public’s name for this mysterious new world.” It’s also a form of democracy in action: vote, and name a distant planet! But it’s gonna cost you.
Name nominations are $4.99; votes cost $0.99.
Who traditionally has named things in outer space? The answer is the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an international body of astronomers, the same group that assigned Pluto to dwarf planet status a few years ago.
Uwingu feels differently. It says that proceeds from naming and voting will help fuel grants to fund space exploration, research, and education. Uwingu also says:
The namer of the most popular name for Alpha Centauri Bb will receive prizes from Uwingu and will be recognized in a press release about the winning name. Uwingu is also giving prizes for runner-ups, and for all names that reach thresholds of 100, 1,000, and 10,000 votes.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.