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What’s in a Mars Crater’s Name? An Auction for eBay and Uwingu

A science fundraising venture known as Uwingu has teamed up with eBay to give auction bidders the chance to suggest a name for a 391-mile-wide (627-kilometer-wide) crater on Mars. The online bids have gone past the $1,000 mark with six days to go before Monday's deadline, but the Red Planet name that results from the process may be in something of a gray area.

More than 14,000 unofficial names for other Martian craters have already been submitted to Uwingu's database through a system that charges a fee based on each crater's size, ranging from $5 to $5,000. Half of Uwingu's proceeds are redistributed to space research and educational organizations. The National Space Society will receive 25 percent of the money from the auction through eBay's Giving Works program. The Mars One project will be another beneficiary, and it plans to use the new name on its Red Planet maps. One big organization isn't on board for the sale, however: the International Astronomical Union, which has traditionally named craters and other extraterrestrial features — and has been sharply critical of Uwingu.

Update for 5:40 p.m. ET Dec. 22: The winning bid came in at $2,020, with more than 50 bids received in all. When we find out which name has been submitted to Uwingu's crater database, we'll pass that along as well.

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— Alan Boyle