All Hail Albertus Alauda

Uwingu Announces Contest Winner

for Popular Name of Alpha Centauri Bb

Back when I was a child my father took me out to see the stars and my mother encouraged me to read about as many things as I could. Without their guidance, I might not be as interested in astronomy and sharing the stars as I am today. When I look at some areas of the sky, such as the constellation Orion, I think of those early times when they were turning me on to the sky.  And, to me, some areas of the sky will always be associated with my folks. If I’d thought of it sooner, I might have nicknamed that region where the Orion Nebula reigns supreme after them:  caeli gloriosa domo Johannis Collins, et Maria (Latin for “the glorious sky home of John and Mary Collins”). It would be a fitting salute to two people who sacrificed a lot so I (and my siblings) could get ahead in life.

Interestingly, the winner of the Uwingu contest to suggest popular names for the planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B had a similar wish to honor a relative. The winning name, announced today by Uwingu, is Albertus Alauda, suggested by Jason Lark in honor of his late grandfather, Albert Lark. In the citation accompanying his nomination, Jason wrote, “His name in Latin means “noble” or “bright” and to praise or to extol. I think this is an apt description as my Grandfather was a noble man and bright of character and in this nomination, I wish to honour [extol] him.”

Jason’s nomination to salute his grandfather won out over more than 1,240 names that were suggested in Uwingu’s contest. While congratulations are due to Jason for his touching nomination, the real winners are also the people who took the time to enter the contest and learn more about exoplanets as they also shared their resources to help a worthy cause. The proceeds of the contest will go to fund space educators and their projects — a goal that Uwingu has long supported as it seeks to find new ways to fund STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) outreach in the United States. For more information on Uwingu and its ongoing mission, visit the group’s website here, and to learn more about its upcoming projects.





  1. It is on the record that practically all votes for the ‘winner’ were by Lark himself who had followed the explicit invitation on the website to do so: this is thus a “popular” name chosen by exactly one of the 7 billion inhabitants of this planet. May he use it himself (after all he paid 700+ bucks for it), but how anyone in astronomy outreach can take this seriously is just beyond by understanding. Any exoplanet naming system that the IAU might come up with this year will make more sense …

  2. Pingback: Allgemeines Live-Blog ab dem 23. April 2013 | Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null

  3. Bill Furnback

    Not that I would’t like to memorialize my Grand Father Otto like this, but it leaves me feeling that it is something less then memorable. especially as even the minor planets in our star’s system are named after the deities of the Roman pantheon. Oh well too late, and a modern audience would not recognize them any way.

  4. C.C. Petersen

    Source, please? And, there was no bar to voting more than once as far as I could tell.

    I’m not quite sure why you are so disdainful of something that is not under IAU’s purview. The only conclusion I can come to is that you simply don’t understand the idea of a contest, and in particular, the idea of THAT contest. And perhaps you are feeling as though you must somehow protect IAU, even though IAU has no purview here.

    I’m just happy the “Rand Paul” name didn’t get many votes. 😉

    As for IAU coming up with a naming convention — their job is to set the guidelines for naming (such as they did for names of places on Venus being women’s names, for example). It is NOT, and I know you know this, the IAU’s job to select the names themselves. That is left to the discoverers.

    Also, as I’ve repeated many times and you apparently either don’t understand or choose NOT to understand: the contest was for POPULAR names, as well as to compile a list for astronomers to choose from when they submit names to IAU for approval. The list is for them to use, if they wish.Those criteria were made quite clear, repeatedly. So, I think you should reconsider your understanding of the contest, stop sniping about it, and move on. And, re-examine your understanding of IAU’s role (should it ever choose to play it with regards to exoplanets). The IAU has a long and honorable history and I have a great deal of respect for the institution, but it needs to buck up and do its job of providing proper guidelines.

  5. It’s in the 2nd part of but strangely missing from how Uwingu tells the story elsewhere. Such wholesale name-buying seems to be their main hope now as indicated in where it says: “When a name reaches 1000 votes, the person who nominated that name can choose which exoplanet in our database they want to adopt and give this name!” That would be 4.99 for the nomination and 1000 x .99 for the “votes” = $994.99 per planet. Sorry, but this smells even more of those ‘star sellers’ now than it did before: in a funny twist the wording of the IAU critique from April 12 fits even more precisely now.

  6. Oh, there was more below the smiley that wasn’t displayed at first … As I have heard it from an IAU source the discoverers of the exoplanets should indeed play a major role in proposing names (if they so wish) in the naming procedure currently under construction, but as with things in our solar system the actual act of naming will be the IAU’s, making sure no offensive or confusing names become ‘official’. (Case in point is the ‘Cerberus’ proposal for one of the lesser Pluto moons that may make the cut with an altered spelling, one hears.)

    One major difference – and problem – is that in the solar system the very existence of the body or feature to be named is generally established clearly by direct imaging while the vast majority of exoplanets is detected in more or less indirect ways – and some of the most interesting cases are actually unconfirmed. Like Alpha Cen Bb, the discovery paper of which had made it into print only barely (as told to me by one of the referees): I doubt that even with a naming procedure in place this particular case will come up anytime soon …

  7. C.C. Petersen

    But they aren’t buying a name. As has been explained time and again, nobody’s buying a name. They’re entering a contest. The rules are clear that the name is NOT official, that it goes into a list that astronomers and the public can use (or not), as they wish. So, how you get that they’re buying a name for a planet is beyond me. It doesn’t matter how much or how little someone is spending on the contest, they’re still not buying an official name, and nobody said they were.

  8. For once we agree – as Uwingu has changed their ‘sales pitch’ yet again in recent days and now talks about ‘adopting’ a planet (if you manage to get – or buy all by yourself – 1000 ‘votes for your name proposal): the entirely unofficial nature of the whole game is being communicated more clearly now. With interest in the thing all but gone at the same time.

    Since the IAU has nothing against people ‘adopting stars’ in e.g. funding efforts for planetaria and only fights companies that mislead people into thinking they buy some official naming rights, I see a truce here and don’t expect further comments at this time. Things will get more interesting later, perhaps still this year, when official exoplanet naming rules might be introduced, however …

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