Tag Archives: Uwingu

Want to help name Pluto’s features? You can!

The New Horizons science team is asking the public to help name the planet’s features it expects to see when the spacecraft flies past Pluto on July 14.

I should mention that the project scientist for New Horizons is Alan Stern, who also happened to be a major player in the private space effort called Uwingu, which previously offered the public the opportunity to name features on Mars, without IAU approval.

In the case of New Horizons, Stern is kind of forced to work with the IAU, since the project is funded by NASA and NASA would never challenge a fellow bureaucracy like IAU.

The IAU has issued a press release condemning the public’s naming of Martian craters as initiated by the private company Uwingu.

My heart bleeds: The IAU has issued a press release condemning the public’s naming of Martian craters as initiated by the private company Uwingu.

This war over the right to name features on other planets is mostly a tempest in a teapot, as the actual names will finally be decided by the people who end up living there. Nonetheless, I really like how Uwingu is pushing the IAU’s buttons, as that organization’s self-righteous insistence that it has the power to name everything in space, from craters to the smallest boulders, has for years struck me as pompous and wrong.

Despite IAU disapproval, the space company Uwingu has announced another private commercial naming project for the craters of Mars.

The war of space names continues: Despite the disapproval of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the space company Uwingu has announced another private commercial naming project for the craters of Mars.

Starting today (Feb. 26), anybody with an Internet connection and a few dollars to spare can give a moniker to one of the Red Planet’s 500,000 or so unnamed craters, as part of a mapping project run by the space-funding company Uwingu. “This is the first people’s map of Mars, where anybody can play,” said Uwingu CEO Alan Stern, a former NASA science chief who also heads the space agency’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. “It’s a very social thing.”

Sounds fun, and a clever way for this company to raise capital. Whether these names stick is an entirely different thing. Uwingu has as much right to assign names to objects as the IAU, but so far the IAU’s fake authority in this matter carries more weight.

In a NASA contest, a nine-year-old has named asteroid 1999 RQ36 after the Egyptian god Bennu.

A rose by any other name: In a NASA contest, a nine-year-old has named asteroid 1999 RQ36 after the Egyptian god Bennu.

1999 RQ36, or Bennu, is an important asteroid for two reasons. First, NASA is sending an unmanned sample return mission to it in 2016. Second, some calculations suggest the asteroid has a 1 in a 1000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2182.

In other naming news, the private space company Uwingu has launched its “Adopt-a-Planet” campaign.

This open-ended campaign gives anyone in the public—worldwide—the opportunity to adopt exoplanets in astronomical databases via Uwingu’s web site at www.uwingu.com. Proceeds from the naming and voting will continue to help fuel new Uwingu grants to fund space exploration, research, and education.

As noted earlier, they are ignoring the IAU’s stuffy insistence that only the IAU can name things in space.

A private company tells the IAU to bug off!

A private company tells the IAU to bug off about who has the power to name things in space!

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.

The company also pointed out that even astronomers name things without the IAU’s approval.