February 27, 2013
New Website Invites Public To Help Name Distant Planets
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Have you ever looked out into the heavens and a perfect name for an as-yet-unnamed planet just popped into your head? Until today, chances are, unless you were close personal friends or family of an astronomy professional, that name would sit idly in your own mind. Thanks in no small part to a team of leading astronomers, planetary scientists, former space program executives and educators; a new space website called Uwingu launched today. Uwingu, Swahili for “sky”, is a new site that allows the public to enter names for planets around other stars directly into a database intended to be used by astronomers for the selection of names for these far away planets.
Along with today´s launch, the Uwingu Fund was also established. The fund will receive the bulk of the proceeds earned by the site. Another intent for the fund is for the generation of grants to fund space exploration, research and education.
“Astronomers have estimated that our galaxy–the Milky Way–harbors 160 billion or more planets. That´s more than 20 planets for every living person on Earth,” says astronomer and Uwingu CEO Dr. Alan Stern. He added, “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. Never before Uwingu was it possible for everyday people to get involved in planet naming.”
Uwingu utilizes a process whereby users can nominate a name for an exoplanet. The freedom each visitor enjoys is no guidelines to follow to nominate a name. For example, one could nominate their favorite town, state, country, school, sports team, musician or hero. Additionally, one could offer up the names of their company, loved ones, friends and even themselves.
For each nomination, expect to cough up $4.99. The site doesn´t impose any type of limit on the number of nominations any one person or entity may sponsor. However, if you plan on being a frequent user of the site, Uwingu offers a volume discount on the purchase of blocks of names.
This is an exciting prospect for the amateur astronomer in all of us. In fact, according to Dr. Geoff Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley, a leading planet hunter, himself, “The myriad planets being discovered across the galaxy are a tribute to our natural human desire to explore beyond the horizon. Now people all over the world can participate in these discoveries in a new way, giving identities and even personality to billions of planets in our galaxy for the first time. I℠m excited, and hope you will be too.”