An organization with goals for enhancing/enriching (my words) space exploration, research, and education, Uwingu, has just released their first product with a focus on the many exo-planets discovered so far, and those yet to be discovered. While not actually a product in the physical sense it is an attempt to raise funding for use as grant money in the coming months. Grant applications will become available early next year with funds raised through this product. So in order to raise funding the public is encouraged to propose a planet name to be added to a database of possible names to be used for the many exo-planets being discovered. Each name nominated, or each vote cast for a name costs $0.99 (99 cents).
Keep in mind that while this database of names will be made available for Astronomers to choose from, whatever name or names one proposes are not official names, nor is it implied that they are official names, unlike the ‘name a star‘ scams. The naming of celestial objects is the the responsibility of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Also on the web site are, under the Educate link, are some resources relevant to the search for exo-planets and are arranged by grade level.
Click hereto read a short story about how Uncle Ron and Aunt Nan learned about naming stars.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.
No OSIRIS REx is not a newly discovered or named velociraptor but is rather the acronym name for a mission to asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36 that will involve returning samples from the asteroid. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer mission is scheduled for a launch in 2016 with the sample return 7 years later during 2023.
While this is an exciting announcement and a mission that will help lead the way for a crewed mission to the asteroids, NASA and mission operators have a more immediate problem. The 500 meter diameter asteroid that was discovered in 1999 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR), an automated telescope, was named following IAU guidelines. However with a name like (101955) 1999 RQ36 the asteroid is in need of a new name and so NASA has just announced a ‘Name the Asteroid’ contest that is open to students under the age of 18 years world-wide.
My Name Is…
Click here to read the NASA Press Release and to follow the links for more information.
The MESSENGER mission at Mercury (MErcury Surface, Space, ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) has been actively exploring the innermoset planet since March of last year (2011).
What does Mercury look like?
Show someone a picture of Mercury and chances are it will be called the Moon. However since the arrival of the MESSENGER spacecraft at Mercury our picture of this innermost planet has dramatically changed. So, as we are seeing more and more surface features there is, as usual, a need to name features. Following guidelines established by the International Astronomical Union a group of Mercury surface features have recently received official names.
Click here to read the recent Press Release announcing and describing the newly named features.
Click here to visit the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature to learn more about how objects are officially named.
Click here to read Aunt Nan’s Star, a short story I wrote years ago about naming stars.