Yesterday, I named a crater on Mars. In fact, I named two. The process was really easy. Through a website, I clicked on a map of Mars, chose my craters, and then paid to give them names. It was a bit easier than ordering a book through Amazon. But by doing this, I’m sort of wading into the middle of a fight between Uwingu, an organization whose goal is to get the public involved in astronomy and fund scientific research, and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a professional society of more than 10,000 astronomers that serves to promote scientific cooperation around the world. Starting last month, Uwingu began creating their own maps of Mars using names for craters suggested by the public. Scientists have cataloged more than 500,000 craters on the Red Planet but have yet to name even a small fraction. Seeing an opportunity, Uwingu decided a good way to get names for all these holes in the ground was to ask ordinary citizens. For a small fee, anyone in the world can go to their website, select a crater, and give it whatever name they desire. Prices for the smallest craters start at $5 and go up based on the object’s size. In just the first 10 days, Uwingu’s vox populi process assigned names to 7,000 Martian craters. Yes, they’re charging a bit of cash for the honor, but the proceeds go to funding grants for scientists working with organizations like the SETI Institute, Astronomers Without Borders, Mars One, and the Galileo Teacher Training Program. via Wired Science.
The auction has been closed.