Naming Planets (and other Solar System objects and features)
- The current names for the five visible planets were derived from Greek and Roman mythology.
- Since the invention of the telescope new planets, moons, and planetary
features (craters, valleys, etc.) have been discovered.
- The names of the newly discovered planets and moons have largely
adhered to the Greek/Roman mythological theme.
- When Herschel discovered Uranus he first proposed it be
named "The Georgian Star" (Georgium Sidus)
in honor of King George III. The French, for a while,
actually called the planet "Herschel".
- In the end, there was general favor for retaining planetary
names based on mythology and it became Uranus -- the father of Saturn.
- Planetary moons also tend to follow the mythological theme.
- The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the final authority in the naming of any celestial object (or planetary surface feature).
- There are systematic rules for naming planetary surface features.
- Small craters on Mars are named for small towns (population less than 100,000) on Earth, for example.
- Craters on Mercury are named for artists, writers, painters, and composers.
- In addition to their numerical designation, asteroids can be named by the discoverer for just about anyone or anything within the bounds of good taste. Asteroids
are the "vanity plates" of the heavens...
- For example,
- asteroid 9387 is named "Tweedledee" and, not surpisingly
there is also an asteroid "Tweedledum" (17681).
- asteroid 3834 is named "Zappafrank".
Created April 24, 2002