Last-Minute Father’s Day Gift: Give Him a Crater on Mars

We all know that Mars Needs Moms, but Dad rocks the Red Planet too! If you’re looking for a last-minute gift for Dad, the commercial space company Uwingu has a special Father’s Day promotion where you can name a crater on Mars after your dad (or any other special person in your life.) You’ll get a unique decorative Father’s Day certificate that you can download and print,or for an extra fee you can have the certificate professionally printed and framed.

Uwingu’s Mars Map Crater Naming Project at allows anyone to help name approximately 590,000 unnamed, scientifically cataloged craters on Mars. The company uses out-of-the-box idea to help address funding shortages for researchers, scientists, educators and students. Uwingu’s Mars map grandfathers in all the already named craters on Mars, but opens the remainder up for naming by people around the globe.

“This is an out-of-this-world way to honor dads across this planet,” said Dr. Alan Stern, Uwingu’s CEO. “Help your dad join our Dads on Mars club!”

uwingu

Uwingu also announced that anyone purchasing the 50 largest craters named by Father’s Day will receive a 2-for-1 bonus: a gift certificate of equal value; allowing them to put additional crater names on the Mars map for free anytime in 2015.

Prices for naming craters depend on the size of the crater, and begin at $5. Half of Uwingu’s revenues go to fund the Uwingu Fund for space research and education grants.

As we’ve reported previously, Uwingu knows that the names likely won’t officially be approved by the IAU, but said they will be similar to the names given to features on Mars by the mission science teams (such as Mt. Sharp on Mars –the IAU-approved name is Aeolis Mons) or even like Pike’s Peak, a mountain in Colorado which was named by the public, in a way, as early settlers started calling it that, and it soon became the only name people recognized.

“Mars scientists and Apollo astronauts have named features on the Red Planet and the Moon without asking for the IAU’s permission,” Stern said. In the past, Stern has said that he realizes having people pay to suggest names for with no official standing may be controversial, and he’s willing to take the chance – and the heat – to try a innovative ways to provide funding in today’s climate of funding cuts.

Said Uwingu’s Ellen Butler, “I’m excited to name a crater on the Uwingu Mars map in honor of my own dad. It’ll be fun to share this with him on Father’s Day. I know he’ll love telling his friends that I named a crater for him!”

Space-y Charity: Some Ideas To Respond To Astronaut Hadfield’s Challenge

While the world was enchanted with Chris Hadfield’s social media posts last year, a new video has the retired astronaut talking about loftier things. Say, for example, how humanity landed a camera on the Saturn moon Titan back in 2005. Or to be more practical, the fact that smallpox was eradicated in its naturally occurring form.

In his talks and books, Hadfield describes himself as one who never focuses on complaining. He was almost yanked from his command of the International Space Station due to a medical issue, but he pressed on and convinced the doctors to let him fly. And in this new video, he focuses on what humans do generally to make the world better — imperfect as it is.

“There are problems with everything, and nothing’s perfect, but that shouldn’t be cause to moan. That should be cause to achieve. Our world is a better place than we often claim it to be,” Hadfield said. “We live the way we do,” he added, “because people chose to tackle their problems, head on.”

The video appears to have a heavy emphasis on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a gigantic philanthropic network that works to improve lives in the developing world and also for the disadvantaged in the United States. But there are many ways to give back to your community, even through gestures as simple as volunteering.

Here are some examples in the space world (note that these aren’t necessarily endorsements for the organizations, but just ideas for making contributions in space and astronomy):

  • Cosmoquest, which runs online astronomy courses and also allows citizens to map extraterrestrial bodies right alongside astronomers.
  • Astronomers Without Borders brings astronomy education across the world, particularly to developing countries.
  • Uwingu says that half of its donations goes to grants to support learning in astronomy.

Other examples of space-y charity could include volunteering or donating to a local school or university, joining one of the numerous volunteer organizations in astronomy, or getting involved in a space advocacy group.

Beam Me Up, Mars! Uwingu Will Send 90,000 Radio Messages There Today

Maybe you can’t climb on a rocketship to Mars, at least yet, but at the least you can get your desire for exploration out through other means. Today, take comfort that humanity is sending 90,000 messages in the Red Planet’s direction. That’s right, the non-profit Uwingu plans to transmit these missives today around 3 p.m. EST (8 p.m. UTC).

Among the thousands of ordinary folks are a collection of celebrities: Bill Nye, the Science Guy; George Takei (“Sulu” on Star Trek) and commercial astronaut Richard Garriott, among many others.

“This is the first time messages from people on Earth have been transmitted to Mars by radio,” Uwingu stated. “The transmission, part of Uwingu’s ‘Beam Me to Mars’ project, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 28 November 1964 launch of NASA’s Mariner 4 mission—the first successful mission to explore Mars.”

The project was initially released in the summer with the idea that it could help support struggling organizations, researchers and students who require funding for their research. The messages cost between $5 and $100, with half the money going to the Uwingu Fund for space research and education grants, and the other half for transmission costs to Mars and other needed things.

While only robots can receive those messages for now, it’s another example of transmission between the planets that we take for granted. For example, check out this stunning picture below from Mars Express, a European Space Agency mission, that was just released yesterday (Nov. 27). Every day we receive raw images back from the Red Planet that anyone can browse on the Internet. That was unimaginable in Mariner 4’s days. What will we see next?

Close-up of a trough in the huge Hellas Basin on Mars, taken by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft and released Nov. 27, 2014. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin
Close-up of a trough in the huge Hellas Basin on Mars, taken by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft and released Nov. 27, 2014. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

Beam a Message to Mars and Support Space Research and Exploration

A new project from Uwingu to help address funding shortages for researchers, scientists, educators and students allows people from Earth to give a global “shout?out” to planet Mars. The project is called “Beam Me to Mars,” and it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the launch of f NASA’s Mariner 4 mission, the first successful mission to Mars.

“Nothing like this has ever been done,” Uwingu CEO Alan Stern told Universe Today. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, and, I think, historic.”

The messages will be beamed to Mars on November 28 using high-powered commercial transmitters owned by Universal Space Network (USN), a company that communicates daily with spacecraft in Earth orbit. They will transmit the Beam Me messages from antennas in Hawaii, Alaska, and Australia.

Since this is a fund-raiser, messages cost between $5 and $100, depending on how elaborate you’d like your message to be (and how much you’d like to give to support Uwingu’s goal to help fund research and space exploration.) Half of the money will go towards The Uwingu Fund that creates space research and education grants. The rest pays for transmission costs to Mars, and things like internet services, Uwingu product development and Uwingu business operations.

The messages can be as simple as just sending your name, or even include a longer message or images. These aren’t private messages, however. The entire message database will be searchable (no charge for that), and will be socially sharable, by anyone on the internet.

Who will get the messages? Well, since there are just robots there (as far as we know), no Martians will receive the messages. But Uwingu will also share messages with those who make decisions on space-related topics back here on Earth. “All of the messages will be hand delivered to Congress, to NASA, and to the United Nations,” says the Uwingu website.

Already, numerous space leaders and personalities like astronaut Chris Hadfield, authors Homer Hickam and Dava Sobel, Mars rover PI Steve Squyres, NASA GRAIL PI Maria Zuber, and Planetary Society President Jim Bell have penned messages to Mars as part of the project.

Uwingu says the radio beam from Earth will spread out to encompass all of Mars — just in case…

“We expect “Beam Me to Mars” to generate a lot of interest — as well as new funds for Uwingu space research and education grants we will make from a portion of the proceeds,” said Stern.

For more information see the Uwingu Beam Me to Mars website, and their FAQs about the project.

NameExoWorlds, an IAU Worldwide Contest to Name Alien Planets, Continues Controversy

This artist’s view shows an extrasolar planet orbiting a star (the white spot in the right).

The International Astronomical Union has unveiled a worldwide contest, NameExoWorlds, which gives the public a role in naming planets and their host stars beyond the solar system.

It’s the latest chapter in a years-long controversy over how celestial objects, including exoplanets, are classified and named.

Although the IAU has presided over the long process of naming astronomical objects for nearly a century, until last year they didn’t feel the need to include exoplanets on this long list.

As late as March 2013, the IAU’s official word on naming exoplanets was: “The IAU sees no need and has no plan to assign names to these objects at the present stage of our knowledge.” Since there was seemingly going to be so many exoplanets, the IAU saw it too difficult to name them all.

Other organizations, however, such as the SETI institute and the space company Uwingu leapt at the opportunity to engage the public in providing names for exoplanets. Their endeavors have been widely popular with the general public, but generated discussion about how ‘official’ the names would be.

The IAU issued a later statement in April 2014 (which Universe Today covered with vigor) and claimed that these two campaigns had no bearing on the official naming process. By August 2014, the IAU had introduced new rules for naming exoplanets, drastically changing their stance and surprising many.

Now in partnership with Zooniverse, a citizen-science organization, the IAU has drawn up a list of 305 well-characterized exoplanets in 206 solar systems. Starting in September, astronomy organizations can register for the opportunity to select planets for naming.

In October, the IAU plans to ask the registered organizations to vote for the 20 to 30 worlds on the list that they want to name. The exact number will depend on the number of registered groups. In December, those groups can propose names for the worlds that get the most votes. Groups can only propose names in accordance with the following set of rules. A name must be:

—   16 characters or less in length

—   Preferably one word

—   Pronounceable (in some language)

—   Non-offensive

—   Not too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object

Starting in March 2015, the list of proposed names will be put up to an Internet vote. The winners will be validated by the IAU, and announced during a ceremony at the IAU General Assembly in Honolulu in August 2015.

The popular name for a given exoplanet won’t replace the scientific name. But it will carry the IAU seal of approval.

Astronomer Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto and CEO of Uwingu told Universe Today’s Senior Editor, Nancy Atkinson, that he was not surprised by the IAU’s new statement. “To my eye though, it’s just more IAU elitism, they can’t seem to get out of their elitist rut thinking they own the Universe.”

“Uwingu’s model is in our view far superior — people can directly name planets around other stars, with no one having to approve the choices,” Stern continued. “With 100 billion plus planets in the galaxy, why bother with committees of elites telling people what they do and don’t approve of?”

If nothing else, the controversy has sparked multiple venues to name exoplanets and more importantly learn about these alien worlds.

Get Mom a Crater on Mars for Mother’s Day

There’s a great book (and a not as great movie) called “Mars Needs Moms” . It’s a heartwarming (dare I say tear-jerking) story that provides a Martian’s-eye view of how important Moms are, and that they’ll love us “to the ends of the universe.”

With Mother’s Day coming up — and if you’re looking for another great combination of Moms and Mars — Uwingu is celebrating with a campaign called Mothers on Mars (MoM), which provides the first-ever opportunity to honor Moms on Mother’s Day by naming a feature for her on Uwingu’s new Mars map.

mother's day

Until Mother’s Day, May 11, Uwingu is offering a gift pack which includes a special Mother’s Day certificate.

Although the crater names likely won’t officially be approved by the IAU, the names will be used on maps used by the Mars One team, the commercial company that is looking to create a human settlement on Mars by 2023.

Planetary scientist and Uwingu’s CEO Dr. Alan Stern said the named craters will be similar to the names given to features on Mars by the mission science teams (such as Mt. Sharp on Mars –the IAU-approved name is Aeolis Mons) or even like Pike’s Peak, a mountain in Colorado which was named by the public — in a way — as early settlers started calling it that, and it soon became the only name people recognized.

Uwingu’s Mars Map Crater Naming Project allows anyone to help name the approximately 590,000 unnamed, scientifically cataloged craters on Mars, starting at $5 each.

Uwingu is hoping to raise $10 million for The Uwingu Fund, which provides grants to further space exploration, research and education.

With almost 10,000 craters named so far, true to their promise, Uwingu has already funded grants to projects and organizations including the Astronomers Without Borders, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Mars One mission, the Galileo Teacher Training Program, Explore Mars and the Allen Telescope Array at SETI.

“Our mission is to raise funds for space research while growing a successful company that gets people excited about space exploration and education”, said Stern, the former director of planetary science at NASA.

Weekly Space Hangout – March 28, 2014: Uwingu & New Dwarf Planet News

Host: Fraser Cain
Astrojournalists: Morgan Rehnberg, David Dickinson

Special Guest: Dr. Alan Stern, Principle Investigator of New Horizons, Founder of Uwingu
Continue reading “Weekly Space Hangout – March 28, 2014: Uwingu & New Dwarf Planet News”

Uwingu Hopes to Raise $10 million for Scientists and Educators with Mars Crater Naming Venture

The latest out-of-the-box idea to help address funding shortages for researchers, scientists, educators and students goes to Mars. Uwingu has launched an update to their web site with a new project that gives people the opportunity to name over 550,000 craters on Mars. The company hopes to raise over $10M for helping to fund space science and education.

“If we’re successful, it’ll by far be the largest such private sector grant fund in history,” said scientist and Uwingu CEO Alan Stern.

Starting today, the public can get involved in Mars exploration by helping to create Uwingu’s new Mars map, with names for all the approximately 550,000 unnamed, scientifically cataloged craters on Mars.

Just like how Apollo astronauts have named landing site landmarks during their Moon missions or how Mars scientists name features they encounter on robotic missions, Uwingu says, “Now it’s your turn.”

Examples of craters various craters on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona.
Examples of craters various craters on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona.

Not only are there craters to name, but you can also help name the map grid rectangles of all the Districts and Provinces in Uwingu’s “address system” – which they say is the first ever address system for Mars.

Prices for naming craters vary, depending on the size of the crater, and begin at $5 dollars. For each crater you purchase and name, Uwingu gives you a shareable Web link and a naming certificate.

Previously, Uwingu has had naming contests for exoplanets, which created a bit of controversy between them and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which usually heads up naming celestial objects and features.

Stern told Universe Today that he doesn’t think they’ll have any issues with the IAU over this latest venture.
“We’re not going to be stamping names on their maps,” Stern said via phone. “We’re just opening up a public feature naming for the first time. We don’t think we own it, we don’t think anyone owns it. We’re just creating a new application.”

Stern added that in 50 years of Mars exploration, only about 15,000 features have been named. “There are 550,000 craters alone that are begging for names,” and hinted that Uwingu will have opportunities to name other Martian features in the future.

Stern and the rest of the Uwingu team – which includes space notables such as space historian and author Andrew Chaikin, planet hunter Dr. Geoff Marcy, planetary scientist and CEO of the Planetary Science Institute, Dr. Mark Sykes, former Executive Director of the Planetary Society Dr. Louis Friedman, and author Dr. David Grinspoon — know that the names likely won’t officially be approved by the IAU, but said they will be similar to the names given to features on Mars by the mission science teams (such as Mt. Sharp on Mars –the IAU-approved name is Aeolis Mons) or even like Pike’s Peak, a mountain in Colorado which was named by the public, in a way, as early settlers started calling it that, and it soon became the only name people recognized.

“Mars scientists and Apollo astronauts have named features on the Red Planet and the Moon without asking for the IAU’s permission,” Stern said. In the past, Stern has said that he realizes having people pay to suggest names for with no official standing may be controversial, and he’s willing to take the chance – and the heat – to try a innovative ways to provide funding in today’s climate of funding cuts.

“We’re trying to do a public good,” he said. “It’s still the case that nobody in this company gets paid. We really want to create a new lane on that funding highway for people who are out of luck due to budget cuts. This is how we’re how we’re trying to change the world for a little better.”

Uwingu’s procedure in the past is that they put half of the money they make into a fund to be given out as grants, and since they are a commercial company, the rest of the money helps pay the their bills.

Check out the crater naming site on Uwingu’s website here, and an FAQ about the project here.

The Exoplanet Naming Debate Heats Up

Following last Friday’s press release from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) concerning the naming of extrasolar planets, a heated debate has arisen over two separate but related issues. One is the “official” vs. “popular” names of astronomical objects (and the IAU’s jurisdiction over them) and the other is Uwingu’s intentions in their exoplanet naming contests.

We’re going to talk about the latter first, as this seems to be where much of the contention lies.

As has been reflected in our articles, Universe Today feels that Uwingu has always been upfront that the names chosen in their exoplanet naming contests were never meant to be “officially” recognized by the IAU, but instead are a way to engage the public and to create non-governmental funding for space research. As we said in our article on Nov. 7, 2012 about the first contest that creates a “baby book” of exoplanet names:

The names won’t be officially approved by the International Astronomical Union, but (Alan) Stern said they will be are similar to the names given to features on Mars by the mission science teams (such as the “Jake Matijevic” rock recently analyzed by the Curiosity rover) that everyone ends up using. This also solves the problem of how to come up with names, a task that the IAU has yet to discuss.

Please read these articles on Time and New Scientist which explicitly quote Uwingu CEO Alan Stern as saying the names generated by Uwingu’s contest will not be officially recognized by the IAU, but are a way to get the public involved and excited about exoplanets.

Anyone who implies that Uwingu is like the ‘name a star’ scams, or that they are out to make money to line their own pockets is completely misreading Uwingu’s website and completely missing the point. The profits go towards science research and education. So far Uwingu has given approximately $5,500 to several projects: Astronomers Without Borders, the Galileo Teacher Training Program, the Purdue Multiethnic Training Program, and the Allen Telescope Array for SETI.

Additionally, as the Uwingu Twitter feed confirmed, “No one at Uwingu has ever been paid, we have all worked for free from the start.”

The IAU’s statement on Friday infers that Uwingu is trying to sell “the rights to name exoplanets” and today Uwingu issued a statement that says the IAU’s press release “significantly mischaracterized Uwingu’s People’s Choice contest and Uwingu itself.”

As astronomer Carolyn Collins Petersen wrote on her Spacewriter’s Ramblings blog, nowhere on Uwingu’s website does it say that you’re buying the right to name a planet, as seems to be suggested by the IAU press release.

“If you donate a few dollars, you get to suggest a name,” she wrote. “You donate a few cents and you can vote for the coolest names. The coolest names win prizes. The money goes to research and education.”

And Stern has said the time has come where exoplanets should be named: “The IAU has had ten years to do something about this and they haven’t done anything,” he told Universe Today previously. “What we’re doing might be controversial, but that’s OK. It’s time to step up to the plate and do something.”

And many agree with his point that since the public is obviuosly intrigued and interested in exoplanets, they should be involved in the naming process, if only to suggest names. And as we’ve said before, since the IAU has said it will be difficult to come up with names since there are now hundreds of known explanets, Uwingu’s projects fits the bill of what is needed.

Also from Uwingu’s statement today:

Uwingu affirms the IAU’s right to create naming systems for astronomers. But we know that the IAU has no purview — informal or official — to control popular naming of bodies in the sky or features on them, just as geographers have no purview to control people’s naming of features along hiking trails. People clearly enjoy connecting to the sky and having an input to common-use naming. We will continue to stand up for the public’s rights in this regard, and look forward to raising more grant funds for space researchers and educators this way.

Over the weekend, the debate raged on the various social media outlets, and astronomer Jason Wright wrote a blog post that called out the IAU’s statement, saying it couldn’t be the official IAU policy, because “IAU policy is determined by democratic vote of its commissions and General Assembly. Neither has endorsed any nomenclature for planets, much less the assertions of the press release.”

Wright added that he contacted a member of Commission 53 (the IAU committee that will discuss the future of exoplanet naming) “and learned that they were not consulted for or even informed of this press release before it went out, and that the commission has not established a naming process since it met in Beijing in 2012.”

As far as the difference between “official” and “common” names, the IAU said in their press release that a “clear and systematic system for naming these objects is vital. Any naming system is a scientific issue that must also work across different languages and cultures in order to support collaborative worldwide research and avoid confusion.”

However, many people have pointed out that other sciences — like biology – have scientific names and common names that are both used and there doesn’t appear to be rampant confusion over this.

But stars can have several names as well, as astronomer Stuart Lowe wrote in his Astroblog, “Currently stars can have one proper name but also be in many different catalogues with different IDs.”

Uwingu pointed out in their statement that the star Polaris (its well-known common name!) is also known as the North Star, Alpha Ursae Minoris, HD 8890, HIP 11767, SAO 308, ADS 1477, FK5 907, and over a dozen more designations.

Uwingu also noted how non-scientific, informal names are prevalent in astronomy. Our own Milky Way galaxy is a great example, and “there are many instances where astronomers name things without going through the IAU’s internal process. There are many of features on Mars, ranging from mountains to individual rocks, with names applied by Mars-mission scientists and never adopted by, or even considered by, the IAU. And Apollo astronauts did not seek IAU permission before naming features at their landing sites or from orbit.”

Also, recent press releases reflect where astronomical objects were given names by astronomers without any IAU process such as Supernova Wilson, Galaxy cluster “El Gordo,” and the “Black Eye Galaxy.” “None drew attention from the IAU,” Uwingu said.

Planetary scientist and educator David Grinspoon (who is on Uwingu’s board of advisors) probably summed it up best in a comment he posted on Universe Today: “IAU maintains names for astronomers and that’s fine, but they do not own the sky. Planets are PLACES not just astronomical research objects, and if informal names for these places proliferate, outside of some self-appointed professional “authority”, and the public at large is more engaged in the exoplanet revolution, that is a very good thing indeed.”

IAU Issues Response To Uwingu’s Exoplanet Naming Campaign

An exoplanet seen from its moon (artist's impression). Via the IAU.

Given the popularity of the recent contest by Uwingu to suggest names for the closest known exoplanet to Earth (officially named Alpha Centauri Bb or ACBb for short), the International Astronomical Union has issued a statement about their stance on the “official” naming process. The IAU says that while they welcome the public’s interest in being involved in recent discoveries, as far as they are concerned, the IAU has the last word.

“In the light of recent events, where the possibility of buying the rights to name exoplanets has been advertised, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) wishes to inform the public that such schemes have no bearing on the official naming process. The IAU… would like to strongly stress the importance of having a unified naming procedure,” said the statement issued by the IAU.

Scientist Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto and CEO Uwingu told Universe Today that he thinks the IAU should side with democracy instead of elitism.

“I think it is diminishing that the IAU is holding onto their claim that they own the Universe,” he said via phone after reviewing the IAU’s statement. “This is like some 15th century European academic club claiming that since Columbus discovered America, they own all the naming rights. That’s BS.”

While the IAU provides official names for stars and planetary bodies in our Solar System, the IAU’s official stance on naming exoplanets has been that since there is seemingly going to be so many of them, (over 800 have been discovered so far) that it will be difficult to name them all. They’ve said the consensus among IAU scientists was that they had no interest in naming exoplanets.

However, they recently added a few sentences on their website that “the IAU greatly appreciates and wishes to acknowledge the increasing interest from the general public in being more closely involved in the discovery and understanding of our Universe. As a result in 2013 the IAU Commission 53 Extrasolar Planets and other IAU members will be consulted on the topic of having popular names for exoplanets, and the results will be made public on the IAU website.”

Stern thinks the IAU’s current stance on naming exoplanets is tactical mistake. “The taxpaying public pays for all the exploration that the IAU members are doing, but the IAU is making an attempt to limit the public’s involvement in something that the public clearly likes to do,” he said. “As an astronomer, that’s my view.”

Uwingu, a startup company that is using out-of-the-box ideas to raise funds for space exploration and science, started an exoplanet naming contest last fall, and the contest to provide a better, “snappier” name for ACBb was started in March, 2013.

Stern knew going into this that the names wouldn’t officially be approved by the International Astronomical Union, but said they will be similar to the names given to features on Mars by the mission science teams (such as Mt. Sharp on Mars –the IAU-approved name is Aeolis Mons) or even like Pike’s Peak, a mountain in Colorado which was named by the public, in a way, as early settlers started calling it that, and it soon became the only name people recognized.

“This should be the wave of the future for planets and there’s no reason for the public not to get involved,” Stern said.

In today’s statement, the IAU said the “certificates” people receive after suggesting a name in Uwingu’s contest are “misleading, as these campaigns have no bearing on the official naming process — they will not lead to an officially-recognized exoplanet name, despite the price paid or the number of votes accrued.”

The IAU conceded that while exoplanet names such as 16 Cygni Bb or HD 41004 Ab may seem boring compared to the names of planets in our own Solar System, “the vast number of objects in our Universe — galaxies, stars, and planets to name just a few — means that a clear and systematic system for naming these objects is vital. Any naming system is a scientific issue that must also work across different languages and cultures in order to support collaborative worldwide research and avoid confusion.”

And to make that possible, the IAU should act as a single arbiter of the naming process, they said.

“As an international scientific organization, [the IAU] dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of selling names of planets, stars or or even “real estate” on other planets or moons. These practices will not be recognized by the IAU and their alternative naming schemes cannot be adopted.”

Information about Alpha Centauri Bb. Information about Alpha Centauri Bb. Credit: Planetary Habitability Laboratory/University of Puerto Rico/Arecibo
Information about Alpha Centauri Bb. Information about Alpha Centauri Bb. Credit: Planetary Habitability Laboratory/University of Puerto Rico/Arecibo

However, several astronomers, including Xavier Dumusque, the lead author of the paper that announced the discovery of ACBb has said they like the idea of having the public involved in naming the exoplanets.

“I would definitively endorse the name for public outreach and lectures,” Dumusque told Alan Boyle of NBC’s Cosmic Log. “In astronomy, we have some chance to be able to make people dream, by showing a wonderful picture, by discovering new worlds. If someone is interested in astronomy, he should not face troubles to understand all the nomenclature. Therefore, giving memorable names for planets is one way to get more people interested in our wonderful research.”

Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin also has been actively participating in the contest and suggested “Tiber” as the name for ACBb. Aldrin is the co-author of a 1977 sci-fi novel titled “Encounter With Tiber.”

IAU’s reticence in naming exoplanets seems to come from the huge bulk of names that will be required. But that’s where Uwingu’s crowd sourcing idea seems to fit the need, and a sort of compromise would be that the public could come up with the names as suggestions in Uwingu’s “baby book” of names, and the IAU would assign the “official” names from the list provided by the public.

If nothing else, Uwingu’s concept has shown how interested the public is in exoplanets and hopefully has given the IAU the kick in the pants needed to possibly consider naming them.

If you’re interested in suggesting names for ACBb, be quick, as the Uwingu contest ends on April 15.