Who knew it was so hard to name an element in the periodic table?  But that's what happened with the ultra heavy element formerly known as ununbium (number 112 on the table).  Sigurd Hofmann's team at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany, were the first to make the element back in 1996.  Tradition has it that the creator can propose a name.  But it's up to the official chemical naming organization, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) to finalize that name. 

The German team proposed the name 'copernicium' - after the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus who discovered the earth orbits the sun.  IUPAC only recently acknowledged the element and the group is still in the midst of evaluating the proposed name 'copernicium.'  According to their naming standards, it is acceptable to name an element after:
• a mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object);
• a mineral, or similar substance;
• a place or geographical region;
• a property of the element; or
• a scientist.

It seems like scientists are a popular choice.  Hofmann's team has named a number of other elements, including element 107 - Bohrium, after Niels Bohr (for more on Bohr, check out The Elegant Universe) and number 109 - Meitnerium, Lise Meitner (learn more about her in Einstein's Big Idea).  I say Copernicus is bound to be next.
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