uwingu smallSomeone once said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.  That certainly is true for Uwingu, a new organization that seeks to kick-start the future through a website that connects people to the sky via commercial products, and uses the profits to fund education.  The company’s name, in case you’re wondering, means “sky” in Swahili.

Uwingu, which became a sponsor of Astronomers Without Borders in December 2012, aims to be a destination for teachers and parents interested in bringing space science to their children.  The organization is made up of astronomers, planetary scientists, and science educators—including its founder Alan Stern, team leader for the New Horizons probe to Pluto, and exoplanet discoverer Geoff Marcy.

Uwingu’s introductory product, Nominate A Planet Name, is based around a challenge to the people of Earth to create a baby book of planet names that can be used to name the 160 billion or more planets astronomers estimate inhabit the Milky Way galaxy.  It costs just $0.99 to nominate a planet name, and there is no limit on the number of nominations a person or entity can sponsor. Associated with planet-name nominations, Uwingu has also announced a contest to determine the 1,000 most popular planet names in the database, which will be communicated to planet hunting astronomers for consideration.  Votes in the contest also cost just $0.99.

At the Uwingu website, you can find free educational materials designed for this first project, including an activity sheet, 1-page handout on extrasolar planets, activities from NASA’s Kepler mission, SpaceMath problems and links to many more resources.  You can also follow Uwingu on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.