Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

3/12/2014 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

IAU and private firm clash over naming rights.

What do you give to a person who has everything? For some, it could be naming a star, an asteroid , or even a crater on the Moon or Mars after them. While such practices make for novelty gifts, few people care what is written in an unofficial database, except for one "official body" that claims the right to name objects in space all to itself. Now, a recent naming campaign has one private venture and an official astronomer's union clashing.

Uwingu is crossing swords with the IAU over the naming rights to Martian craters.

Uwingu is crossing swords with the IAU over the naming rights to Martian craters.


By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

Catholic Online (

3/12/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Uwingu, Mars One, IAU, astronomers, naming, craters, Mars, Moon, money

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It is every astronomer's dream to be the first to discover an object in space and have it named after themselves. Space objects are much more timeless than earthly monuments and with the future of humanity in space, they could perhaps become major features for millions of people, or so many fantasize.

Yet, who names space objects and why?

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

We love maps. Maps are an important tool for understanding the cosmos, particularly the Moon and Mars which have been imaged in high resolution in anticipation of human missions to both places in the decades to come. The features on those maps need names, so one body, the International Astronomical Union, comprised of astronomers from around the world, claims the right to name otherworldly features, including the craters on both worlds.

However, a commercial startup known as Uwingu, has stepped on the IAU's toes, rather hard, by selling the rights to name Martian craters for anywhere between $5 to $5,000, depending on the size of each. Some can be as small as a few meters across.

The names make for novelty gifts and they money is used to finance science education as well as the Dutch venture, Mars One which plans to put humans on Mars within 20 years financed by various high-profile publicity stunts, including a possible reality show  to choose who will make the one-way trip to Mars.

According to Uwingu, 7,000 craters have been named and the names will be used on official Mars One maps.

This naturally has the Paris-based IAU upset. The IAU has provided the official names for objects in space for over a century and continues to name space objects. Mountains and craters, as well as every other thing in space that can be named falls within their purview. The IAU also demoted the status of Pluto as a planet in 2006 when it became clear that Pluto was just one of several similarly-sized, distant objects ringing the Solar System.

The IAU has criticized Uwingu's pay-to-name a crater on Mars plan saying Tuesday, "Such initiatives go against the spirit of free and equal access to space, as well as against internationally recognized standards. Hence no purchased names can ever be used on official maps and globes."

This prompted Uwingu co-founder, Doug Griffith to issue a scathing reply, "The IAU needs to stop being the self-licking ice cream cone of the scientific community, and recognize that as long as its existence is merely to gratify its own puritanical principles and sense of elitism, it is not going to be a part of the next wave of space exploration. That will be done by others who recognize that science exists for the benefit of the world, not for the scientists," Griffith told NBC in an email.

To be fair, Uwingu also tells potential buyers that their names are unofficial and despite their likely inclusion on Mars One maps, they might not be used in the future.

And there's no reason to think the IAU's names will be accepted either.

Eventually, people who end up near these features will name them whatever they like. Just as today, people who live in a community name features around them in spite of official names, people of tomorrow will do the same. The colonizers of the Moon and Mars will probably have little regard for the IAU and other agencies that claim rights to label things that are merely objects on a map for earthbound scientists, but a daily reality for future colonizers.

For their part, NASA and other various space agencies will continue using  official IAU names. However, given the fiscal and political reality of space travel, it's difficult to say if it will be NASA or a private agency, such as Mars One, that will actually make it there first, and that fact may have a lot of bearing on the outcome of the current debate.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for SEPTEMBER 2016
Centrality of the Human Person: That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.
Evangelization: Mission to Evangelize: That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.


More Technology

Whoa! Why the universe is more crowded than we thought Watch

Image of The universe is packed with galaxies, many we cannot see.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Scientists believe the universe may have 10 times the number of galaxies than previously thought. New research and new mathematical models suggests there's a lot more stuff out there, but we cannot see it. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Researchers from a team ... continue reading

Brain implant helps paralyzed man feel and move hand Watch

Image of New tech is offering more options for the medical community to treat patients.


Nathan Copeland, who has been paralyzed since he was a teen, was able to feel sensation in his fingers after a successful trial with robotics and a brain implant. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Technology has been excelling in leaps and bounds, so when Copeland, ... continue reading

White House reveals the real dangers of A.I. - Are YOU safe? Watch

Image of Robots will take over low-income jobs first (PCWorld).


Robots help make life easier. It's a fact most science fiction writers picked up on decades ago and many see today. With self-driving cars, improved medical techniques and even A.I. girlfriends, the world is preparing to rely more heavily on A.I. and robots while ... continue reading

Robot revolution inches closer - A.I. has now learned 'rational reasoning' skills, can teach itself Watch

Image of A.I. can now think and reason and teach itself.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Robots are getting smarter, and are becoming capable of doing things we can't easily do, or do in a short space of time. It is becoming apparent what will happen next as the world's movers and shakers prepare for a world where robots provide the labor, and in some ... continue reading

Man spends $100/month for FAKE girlfriend - Has technology gone too far? Watch

Image of More men are turning to cyber girlfriends in alarming trend.


QUICK, turn to me, pity me, alone and wretched as I am! - Psalms 25:16 LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - God did not create us to be alone, yet thousands of people around the world are forced to turn toward artificial intelligence for relationships and meaningful ... continue reading

Toyota unveils robot for 'emotional companionship' - robots could become commonplace in homes within the next decade Watch

Image of This tiny robot is intended to serve as an emotional substitute for human companionship.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A Japanese firm is releasing a tiny robot intended to provide emotional companionship for people.  The tiny robot is the latest in a growing industry where robots provide companionship to lonely people. Robots remain exotic, but are expected to become commonplace ... continue reading

Self driving trucks to begin replacing truck drivers in 2017 Watch

Image of Uber and Otto will debut the first self-driving truck on American roads in 2017.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Robots are already starting to replace security guards and delivery drivers. Now truck drivers will be replaced starting in 2017. A tech company called Otto has developed a self-driving truck that's ready for the road. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Starting in ... continue reading

Get ready to give up your car keys, driverless lanes are coming! But beware... Watch

Image of Soon you will no longer be allowed to drive, the day is coming.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Get ready to give up your keys, human drivers may face driving bans in as little as five years as self-driving cars come online. Planners are evaluating a stretch of the I-5 in Washington for a possible human driver ban. If practical, it will spread. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

Imagine a leisurely future without work! But beware there's a HIDDEN DARK SIDE... Watch

Image of What does the future look like?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In the future, robots and artificial intelligence will become so capable that they will take over every imaginable job from humans. What will happen when there is no more work for people to do? How will humans adapt to this workless future? And is there a dark side to ... continue reading

Attention console gamers! PS4 Pro specs and release date Watch

Image of The PS4 Pro will be released just in time for Christmas.


Sony released the PS4 Pro specs, release date and more. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The system is set to hit stores November 10 and will cost $399 - but is it worth it?Let's start with the specs: If you don't already have one, it's time to invest in a 4K TV or ... continue reading

All Technology News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:32--5:8
32 Be generous to one another, sympathetic, forgiving each other as ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:10-17
10 One Sabbath day he was teaching in one of the synagogues,11 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 24th, 2016 Image

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was ... Read More