Uwingu wants you to help name faraway planets. It’s gonna cost you $4.99, but, according to Uwingu:
… much of the proceeds from these name nominations will be used to generate a source of grants to fund space exploration, research, and education — called The Uwingu Fund.
Up to now, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has taken upon itself the duty of providing official names for objects in space. Who gave them that right? Well, they gave it to themselves, as a bonafide international organization of professional astronomers of long standing. The naming system worked well throughout the 20th century. But after the IAU decided to demote Pluto from full planet status in 2006 – and as crowd-sourcing became such an effective and popular way to do so many things – some people began to wonder if there wasn’t a better way.
Astronomer and Uwingu CEO Dr. Alan Stern – who also happens to be principal investigator for the New Horizons space mission now en route to Pluto – said of Uwingu’s plans:
This is a first step in democratizing planet naming. And it’s a new way for the people of Earth, of every age, of every nation, of every walk of life to personally connect to space discoveries
According to Uwingu’s press statement released today (February 27, 2013):
People can nominate “exoplanet” names for their favorite town, state, or country, their favorite sports team, music artist, or hero, their favorite author or book, school, their company, for their loved ones and friends, or even for themselves.
Individual Uwingu planet name nominations cost $4.99; there is no limit on the number of nominations a person or entity can sponsor. Uwingu makes volume discounts available to purchasers of blocks of names.
Bottom line: Uwingu – pronounced oo-wing-oo – is inviting the public to recommend names for faraway planets. Recommendations cost $4.99 each, and proceeds will be used to create a source of grants to fund space exploration, research, and education. The names will be placed in a database, and astronomers and others will make the final selection.
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.