Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 15 Deadline, and It's Not Taxes: Vote "PlanetPluto" in Uwingu's Exoplanet Naming Project

Uwingu is a company presenting a new way to fund astronomy research and space exploration. It makes use of crowd-funding online to motivate people discouraged by federal cuts to NASA's planetary program and cuts to space research by other Western governments to donate small amounts that will hopefully add up to enough money to fund large grants to scientists and research institutions.

The IAU wrongly condemns Uwingu as a "scam" and unfairly compares it to real scams such as the International Star Registry or projects that "sell" people land on the Moon.

Uwingu is nothing like this. Donors know they are not buying a certificate or an exoplanet; they are voluntarily funding scientific research that too many governments are unwilling to fund.

The IAU should be applauding this effort to get more funding for astronomy and get more people actively involved in the field, but instead, they are condemning an effort that actively promotes the science of astronomy and enables all of us to do so as well.

Is the IAU response really about Uwingu or exoplanets at all? Or is it a thinly-veiled attempt to "get back at" the leading astronomer in the world who has opposed and continues to oppose their flawed planet definition and demotion of Pluto? Decide for yourselves.

The IAU claims it is the only legitimate organization with the power to name and classify celestial bodies. Why? Because they say so? The truth is, the only authority they hold is by consensus, and if that consensus erodes, so does their authority.

As a way of sending a message to the IAU, I have been asking Pluto supporters to vote for "PlanetPluto," which has been nominated as one of the exoplanet names on Uwingu's site. You can vote as many times as you want, and a vote costs only 99 cents, which will go toward astronomy research.

As of this moment, PlanetPluto interestingly has 14 votes, which, if one counts Pluto-Charon as a binary system, equals the current number of planets in our solar system according to the geophysical planet definition, which includes terrestrials, jovians, and dwarf planets.

Science cannot be dictated by fiat. Ultimately, we are the "deciders"; we have the power to accept or reject names and definitions, to provide our own input, and to be part of astronomy research--not just by donating money but also by taking part in the many online astronomy research projects now open to all who are interested.

There is a deadline to nominate and vote on planet names, and that is Monday, April 15. While there is no guarantee any name will be used, Uwingu will create a "baby book of names" with the top 1,000 vote getters, which will be distributed to astronomers for possible use in naming any of the almost 900 exoplanets that have been discovered so far.

So take a break from doing taxes and vote here: http://www.uwingu.com/ . If you want to send a statement to the world affirming that Pluto is a planet and that the debate on planet definition is not over, cast one or more votes for "PlanetPluto," which you can find here:
http://www.uwingu.com/vote-on-planet-names/#.UWorZKKG1ac .

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