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Encyclopedia > Origin of the names I

of the bodies of the Solar system

We propose now to see how the names of the bodies of the Solar system were given: from mythology first, but also from other themes or traditions now well-regulated.

names of planets and their satellites
names of craters, volcanos, plains or other features of the surfaces
names of asteroids
names of comets

Since 1919, it is the International Astronomical Union (see its web site) which is in charge to define the names of the newly discovered bodies and of features at the surface of the celestial bodies. For that purpose, regulations have been made : 

1- a name as simple as possible without any ambiguity; 

2- if a designation needs several names, a minimum necessary for the scientific community must be chosen; 

3- the same name must not be used for different bodies; 

4- the names must be provided in one language only and may not be translated in the language of the user; 

5- when possible, the themes used for the first discoveries must be used; 

6- the nomenclature of the Solar system must keep an international aspect; the names must be taken to several different cultures, proposed by the different countries and chosen by the International Astronomical Union; 

7- names from political, military or religious origin may not be used except for politicians prior to the XIXth century; 

8- a structure or a feature on a Solar system body may have the name of people with an international standing dead for more than 3 years; 

9- if a name may have several pronunciations, the choice belongs to the proposer; 

10- the names of rings ans planetary satellites are defined by the working group on planetary nomenclature and by commission 20 of the International Astronomical Union. Names will be given to newly discovered satellites only when their orbital elements are well known. 
It is the discoverer of a new object who has the privilege to propose a name following to general regulations as above and also to specific regulations depending on the type of body.