Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature
International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN)
Planetary Names: How Names Are Approved

How Names Are Approved


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 task group. Later, as higher resolution images and maps become available, names for additional features may be requested by investigators mapping or describing specific surfaces or geological formations. Members of the science community or the general public may suggest that a specific name or theme be considered by a task group, but the task group is under no obligation to accept the suggested name or theme. Such nomenclature decisions lie solely with the task group. Names successfully reviewed by a task group are submitted to the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN). Upon successful review by the members of the WGPSN, names are considered approved and can be used on maps and in publications. Approved names are immediately entered into the official IAU database, the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, and posted on its web site. Any objections to these names based on significant, substantive problems must be forwarded in writing or email to the IAU Division F President within three months from the time the name was placed on the web site. Approved names are also listed in the transactions of the IAU.

The IAU page Naming Astronomical Objects discusses the processes for naming dwarf planets and satellites of planets in the Solar System.

Suggestions should be sent to Rosalyn Hayward, 2255 N. Gemini Drive, Flagstaff, Arizona 86001, or by e-mail: nomenclature@usgs.gov.