Piece of lunar nomenclature! Image credit: IAU

Piece of lunar nomenclature! Image credit: IAU

Good morning, Earthlings!

This is going to be a several-part segment on some of the strange names we give our geologic features on planetary bodies and moons!

First off, a huge thank you is in order to Mary Adela Blagg, a volunteer in 1920 under the newly formed International Astronomical Union (IAU) to organize the first catalogue of Lunar nomenclature! From her very appreciative work, the IAU appointed her as a member of the Lunar Nomenclature Committee. 

1958 was the development of names for Martian features from telescope observations, most notably of those from Schiaparelli in 1879. It wasn't until the 1970 Mariner flybys that more features were to be named. In 1973 and onward, specific committees were formed for each planetary body, including moons and asteroids, for nomenclature approval. 

Why nomenclature? This helps us planetary geologists identify the geologic feature with a name and a descriptor (the latin-based geologic term). There are currently 56 descriptor terms. Here are a few descriptors of geologic formations as stated by the IAU:

-Chaos: distinct broken terrain

-Dorsum: ridge

-Fossa: long, narrow depression

-Mons: mountain

-Unda: dune

Here are some fun facts with nomenclature!

1) The "Mare" on the moon (the large dark regions of the moon) is the Latin term for
"seas" because early astronomers thought there were moving seas on the moon!

2) The Galilean Moons of Jupiter (Europa, Io, Callisto, Ganymede) are named after Greek mythological people who were seduced by Zeus (Jupiter).

3) In the Uranian system, some moons are named after characters from Shakespeare. These include moons named: Portia, Bianca, Cordelia, Oberon, Juliet, and Puck!

4) Triton, Neptune's large moon, has craters named after worldly fish-related deities, including the Tanzanian "Mazomba" and the Norse "Andvari"

Come back next week for some more nomenclature Part 2!

Crater names on Ceres are named after worldly deities of agriculture! Image credit: IAU

Crater names on Ceres are named after worldly deities of agriculture! Image credit: IAU