Naming planetary objects?

On August 23, India celebrated a technological triumph when Chandrayaan-3 landed near the Moon’s South Pole at 6:04 p.m. Since then, there has been a discussion on the naming of the landing spot, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed Shiv Shakti.

Do you know how are planetary objects are usually named?

International Astronomical Union             

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), founded in 1919, is responsible for assigning names to celestial bodies and surface features on them. In the IAU, there are numerous Working Groups that suggest the names of astronomical objects and features.

In 1982, the United Nations, at its ‘Fourth Conference on the Standardisation of Geographical Names held in Geneva, recognised the role of the IAU by adopting its resolution on extraterrestrial feature names.

Key rules

The IAU has set some rules for naming planetary objects. Some of the most important rules are -the names should be simple, clear, and unambiguous; there should not be duplication of names; no names having political, military or religious significance may be used, except for names of political figures prior to the 19th Century; and if a name of a person is suggested, then he/she must have been deceased for at least three years, before a proposal may be submitted.

Process of naming

When the first images of the surface of a planet or satellite are obtained, themes for naming features are chosen and names of a few important features are proposed, usually by members of the appropriate IAU Working Group. However, there is no guarantee that the name will be accepted.

Names reviewed by an IAU Working Group are submitted by the group’s chairperson to the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN). After this, the members of the WGPSN vote on the names.

The names approved by the WGPSN members are considered as official IAU nomenclature and can be used on maps and in publications. The approved names are then entered into the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, and posted on the website of IAU.


If there are any objections to the proposed names, an application has to be sent to the IAU general secretary within three months from the time the name was placed on the website. The general secretary will make a recommendation to the WGPSN Chair as to whether or not the approved name(s) should be reconsidered.

 In 1966, the Outer Space Treaty was formed by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to set rules for international space law. One of the key aspects of this treaty was that the outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all states without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.

Picture Credit : Google


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