IAU Logo IAU Division III

Committee on Small Body Nomenclature

Comité pour la nomenclature des petits corps célestes

A Committee of IAU Division III


Cometary Names


When a comet is discovered and confirmed, it is given a designation reflecting the date of discovery of the comet. Prior to 1995, the system of designations was different and comets discovered earlier have multiple designations. Comets with orbital periods shorter than 200 years are arbitrarily defined to be short-period comets. When their orbits become very well determined, usually after two passages through perihelion, they receive a permanent number as a periodic comet. A general discussion of both the present and the previous systems of designations for comets is available at the CBAT.


Comets are generally named for their discoverers, with certain guidelines about what constitutes a discovery and how many discoverers may be named. While the guidelines may evolve, the CSBN attempts to keep them reasonably stable. The CSBN and CBAT have published a recent revision to the summary guideline which describes the current procedures. The older guidelines are linked from there.

Cross Identification

Interactive web pages are available to look up most of the alternative designations and names of a comet both at the CBAT and at the Small Bodies Node of NASA's Planetary Data System (SBN-PDS).

Name Lists

The CSBN, as part of new (spring 2000) terms of reference from the IAU Executive Committee, is now preparing annual lists of names assigned. These are available on-line, and are generally up to date within a week or so of all naming actions or decisions not to name.

The final, formal approval of all names is made at the IAU General Assembly (GA) by IAU Division III. The lists for 2000, 2001, and 2002 were formally approved at the GA in Sidney in August 2003. The lists for 2003, 2004, and 2005 were considered and approved, with no objections, at GA XXVI in Prague in August 2006.


I'm Tired and I Wanna Go Back to:

IAU .............. IAU Division III ............. IAU CSBN

Department of Astronomy ............. M. F. A'Hearn ............. The Real World

Created: 1997/9/9, mfa; Last Update: Tuesday, 07-May-2013 09:01:14 EDT