Posted on behalf of Geoff Marcy, Alan Stern, and Pamela Gay from Uwingu
“This is where you come in, and make it possible for Uwingu to change the equation of space funding."
It’s often been said the sky is full of stars, but hidden from our eyes are a myriad of planets at least as numerous as the stars themselves. Since 1995, more than 1000 potential exoplanets have been discovered orbiting alien stars.And last year, some of our fellow astronomers announced that they estimate that there are over 160 billion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Amazing: 160 billion — billion with a B! That’s such a large number — almost 20 times the population of Earth — that no astronomer, no committee of astronomers, not even any professional society of astronomers can realistically construct a planet catalog that long. After all, even if all the world’s 15,000 or so astronomers stopped all other work and did nothing but list names once per minute, every work day, and no duplicates or writers block ever occurred, it would still take about 90 years for them to write down 160 billion names!The solution? Welcome to Uwingu, a small company made up of astronomers, planetary scientists, and others with big dreams! We want to better connect the people of Earth to space and to the sky, and we want to create a new way to fund space exploration, space research, and space education — a way rooted in the private sector. Tired of hearing of far away planet names that sound like license plates — like Kepler 6a and Kepler 6b? Well, this is your chance to help change that, and to help fund science and education in the process. How?At Uwingu, we’re asking the people of Earth — the people who pay for all the astronomical discoveries — to create a galactic baby book of planet names for astronomers to choose from. And we want to start at home, with the readers of Astronomy magazine leading the charge!Naming things is such a human trait. We name our children as soon as they are born. We name our pets as soon as they are ours. People name streets and other places, ranches, boats, businesses, and so much more. Now its time, in 2012, for the people of Earth to create a list of candidate names for the 160+ billion planets across the galaxy. That’s right, we’re asking you — and all the people of Earth — to nominate names for the planets of the Milky Way: all 160 billion of them. Through those entries at our web site, those names will form a giant database of planet names so large that we hope that it will go down in history as an important contribution of its own to humankind’s exploration of space. This is a whole new way for the people of Earth, of every nation, every age, every walk of life — anyone with access to a computer or other internet device — to connect to space exploration in a whole new way. It’s pretty cool. Also cool is that we’re simultaneously asking the people of Earth to vote on their favorite planet names in the Uwingu database to help guide astronomers choices. What names will rise to the top?Even cooler is that we plan to use the proceeds from naming and voting, after we pay our company’s bills, to create a new way to fund space exploration, space research, and space education — entirely from the private sector.And you can put as many names in this new database as you like! Name them for yourself, your favorite place, your favorite sports team or music artist, your favorite author or book, your alma mater, your company, and for your loved ones and friends! Almost anything goes — it’s as wide open as the naming of places has been by the explorers and settlers who tagged the countries, towns, rivers, and mountains of Earth. You can also nominate names in other languages besides English! The only rules are that names have to be less than 50 characters long, not be purely or essentially numbers, and they can’t be insulting, profane, or pejorative. And you can start right now. Just go to www.uwingu.com and jump on it! We want to see how big a baby book of planet names the people of Earth can generate by December 31, 2012. This is a big goal, and one made even bigger by our objective of creating a large fund from the proceeds of this activity to change the funding equation of space exploration, space research, and space education, creating a large private fund to supplement what limited tax and precious dollars can do. We hope you will start today, nominating and voting on your own ideas, and telling your friends to do the same. And if you think of more ideas tomorrow, or the day after, or next week, just add them to the database!We’re Uwingu! We’re connecting people to the sky and space in new ways. And we’re creating a fund to fuel space exploration, space research, and space education a whole new way. Ready, set, go — just click to www.uwingu.com to get started!