These Is A Bizarre Set Of Rules In Place For Naming New Discoveries In Space

Naming something in space isn't as simple as calling it whatever you like. The International Astronomical Union makes sure of that.

Have you ever wondered where all the places on Earth get their names from? Hundreds of thousands of destinations, all with different names that have various meanings. Then there's space. The human race is discovering more and more of what lies beyond our tiny planet with each passing day, and each new discovery needs a unique name.

It needs that unique name so that it doesn't get confused with something else out in the vastness of space. You don't want to ask someone to look at a crater on the moon and they end up seeking out a mountain on Mars with the same name. Believe it or not, there is an organization dedicated to ensuring this doesn't happen. It's called the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and it has been in place for 100 years.


The IAU's system is not as simple as those who make new discoveries submitting potential names and it giving a thumbs up or thumbs down, oh no. There are a strict set of rules in place, as recently highlighted by The Mercury News. Take the guidelines for anyone who wanted to suggest potential names for Jupiter's recently discovered moons, for example.

via news.nationalgeographic.com

Astronomer Scott Sheppard discovered the moons and took to Twitter for help. However, suggestions were only considered if they met these IAU criteria. The name must come from a direct descendant of Zeus or Jupiter, be 16 characters or less, not offensive, too commercial, or closely tied to any political, military or religious activities of the past 100 years, cannot belong to a living person, and can’t be too similar to the name of any existing moons or asteroids. Plus, depending on the direction of its orbit, it must end with either an a or an e.

Strict rules and they are in place for all planets and various objects discovered in space thus far. Each planet tends to be linked to a different area of mythology, that way astronomers instantly know where in the solar system someone is referring to when they bring up a place, moon, planet, or asteroid. That is if they know their mythology, of course. The IAU is a little more lenient with some objects. Asteroids can pretty much be named after anyone significant, and there are some out there right now named after The Beatles, Jesse Owens, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

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