Are you confused by the impossible-to-pronounce acronyms sometimes used to identify space missions? You are not alone.
To move away from cryptic acronyms, our nation's space agency is asking your help to find a user-friendly name for a new space-based observatory. It is currently called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, or SIRTF for short. The observatory will allow scientists to study objects from within our solar system to the distant reaches of the universe. It will see these objects by looking for the heat they radiate in the infrared wavelength. For example, the mission will look for dusty discs around other stars where planets might be forming.
"We are hoping to tap the creativity of the public to find a name suitable for this important mission that will help enrich our knowledge of the universe." said Doris Daou, an education and public outreach representative for the mission.
The Space Infrared Telescope Facility is the fourth and final component of NASA's Great Observatories Program, which includes the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. Together, these four space-based missions enable scientists to study space across many different wavelengths of light.
The deadline for nominations is December 20, 2001. The winner will be flown to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to witness the launch of the observatory, planned for next year. Up to 200 semi-finalists will receive a letter of recognition and an educational kit. All naming contest participants will be able to print a personalized "Certificate of Participation" upon submission of a valid entry.
A short essay explaining the reasons for the suggested name must accompany all submissions. Following NASA's guidelines, names of current or proposed space missions cannot be used, and if the observatory is to be named after a person, that person must be deceased. Submissions are only accepted electronically. The contest is open to all Earthlings, except employees directly affiliated with NASA, JPL or the California Institute of Technology, and their immediate families.
To enter the naming contest go to http://sirtf.caltech.edu/namingcontest/ . For more information on the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, visit http://sirtf.caltech.edu .
JPL manages the Space Infrared Telescope Facility for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.