The planets Uranus and Neptune have been waiting billions of years for official Hebrew names (or at least a few thousand years, since Hebrew began) and now - in honor of UNESCO's International Year of Astronomy - Israelis have an opportunity to vote for their preferences.
The vote by Internet is being organized by the Hebrew Language Academy and will end on Monday, November 30. Those who want to vote can go to the Hebrew-language Web site www.astronomy2009.org.il and choose two of the four finalist names selected from 650 proposed names. Senior astronomy researchers and academy linguists sifted through the suggestions and came up with Oron (small light) and Shahak (skies) for Uranus, and Rahav (the ruler of the seas) or Tarshish (the name for sea in Jewish literature) for Neptune.
Pluto, by the way, also remains nameless in Hebrew, but in recent years, it has been downgraded from a planet to a less-important celestial body.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony in December marking the end of the International Year of Astronomy.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been known by mankind since the beginning and were therefore given the names of Greek and Roman gods. They are named Hama (or Kochav), Noga, Ma'adim, Tzedek and Shabtai, respectively. Earth is Eretz.
Uranus and Neptune were sighted after the invention of the telescope, and now their turn for a Hebrew name has come. Voters need only give their own names in Hebrew and their identity card numbers, as well as type in a random code presented in large characters to prevent mass automatic voting.