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Encyclopedia > Origin of the names V

ORIGIN OF THE NAMES

Asteroids or "minor planets"



This is to give a name to newly discovered asteroids that the greatest freedom is left. Contrary to what some suggest, it is not possible to buy an asteroid to give it a name: for that it is necessary to discover a new one. It will be long, but it is possible even if you have only a small telescope. We are still far from knowing all the asteroids in the solar system and they are being discovered every day, even bright and easily observable. If automatic telescopes discoveries provide the majority of the discoveries, the contribution of amateur astronomers is far from negligible.

The naming is a lengthy procedure that takes years.

It begins with the observation of a new object, not listed in catalogs or in the ephemerides. This unknown object must be observed and followed for several nights (at least two). Positions have to be measured and sent to the Minor Planet Center (see its web site which provides ephemerides and gives positions of all known asteroids so it is easy to know if the observed object is a new one. If so, a provisional designation will be assigned for this object. This designation will start by the year of discovery followed by two letters. The first indicates the half- month of the discovery and the second is the numbered discovery chronologically in this half months. The letter I is not used to avoid any confusion with the number 1. For asteroids discovered during systematic observations campaigns a two-letter code refers to the campaign. Number order follows the two letters when multiple objects are discovered simultaneously, which is common with systematic observations made ​​by specialized large field telescopes.

Thereafter, it may be that several objects with different provisional designations are in fact only single object when we will have positions on a arc sufficiently long to compute an orbit and find it again at the next opposition. Observations will then be made ​​for the next three or four oppositions and the asteroid will receive a permanent number (for fast near-Earth asteroids, two oppositions may be sufficient). 

It is only during this step than the discoverer will be allowed to propose a name following some regulations:

- not more than 16 digits for a name 

- no composed name (if possible) 

- easy pronunciation in several languages 

- correct name and not aggressive towards anyone 

- names very different from the existing names of asteroids or natural planetary satellites

- no name of a politician or a military except if deceased since more than one century

- avoid the name of your pet 

- provide explanations about the proposed name.  

The proposed names are then submitted to the comittee for Nomenclature of the small bodies of the Solar system of the International Astronomical Union, comittee gathering eleven astronomers worldwide working on asteroids topics.

Until today (December 10, 2019) 794 832 suspected observed asteroids have a provisional designation. Among them, 541 128 received a permanent number, and 21 922 received a name.


You will find information and names about asteroids on the following pages:


- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from A to B 

- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from C to E 

- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from F to H 

- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from I to K 

- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from L to N 

- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from O to R 

- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from S to T 

- list of the names of asteroids by alphabetic order from U to Z 

- circonstances of the discoveries of the first 500 asteroids 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 501 to 1000 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 1001 to 1500 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 1501 to 2000 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 2001 to 2500 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 2501 to 3000 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 3001 to 3500 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 3501 to 4000 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 4001 to 4500 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 4501 to 5000 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 5001 to 5500 

- circonstances of the discoveries of asteroids from 5501 to 6000