IAU Logo IAU Division III

Committee on Small Body Nomenclature

Comité pour la nomenclature des petits corps célestes

A Committee of IAU Division III


Names of Minor Planets

Provisional Designation

Minor planets are each given a provisional designation when they are discovered and confirmed. These designations are based on the date of discovery and are assigned by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) according to a well defined formula. A general discussion of the system of designations of minor planets is available at the MPC.

Permanent Designation

When the orbit of a minor planet becomes very well determined so that the position can be reliably predicted far into the future (in most cases this means after the minor planet has completed two or even more observed orbital periods), the minor planet receives a permanent number (issued sequentially by the Minor Planet Center) and becomes eligible for naming.


When an asteroid receives a permanent designation, the discoverer of the asteroid is invited to suggest a name for that asteroid. There are extensive guidelines for the choice of names but ultimately the name must be approved by the CSBN. Further details of the procedures for naming minor planets are available at the MPC. The guidelines for the names are described here. A list of minor planet names assigned is prepared each triennium for the General Assembly. The list for GA XXVI in Prague in 2006 is available here. A merged, alphabetic list of all names is available at the Minor Planet Center, as is a list of discovery circumstances.


Web-based utilities to interactively cross-reference designations and names are available both at the MPC and at the Small Bodies Node of NASA's Planetary Data System (SBN-PDS).


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Created: 1997/9/9, mfa; Last Update: Thursday, 28-Jun-2007 16:20:43 EDT