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Committee on Small Body Nomenclature

Comité pour la nomenclature des petits corps célestes

A Committee of IAU Division III


Names of Minor Planets


All minor planet names are subject to the approval of the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN), a working group of IAU Division III, in consultation with the IAU's Minor Planet Center (MPC). The guidelines are based on resolutions that have been passed at various times by IAU Commission 20, to which the CSBN and its predecessor committees reported until 1997. The CSBN advises the MPC on how to interpret these resolutions in individual cases. We provide here the relevant resolutions from the Transactions of the IAU. Note that the reviewing structure and schedule have changed over the period covered by these resolutions. All reviews are now carried out by the CSBN which was created in 1994.

Montreal, 1979

From Proceedings of the General Assembly XVIIA
"Commission 20 affirms the tradition that the discoverer of a numbered minor planet be permitted to propose a name for the object. A proposal would normally be accepted, provided that it is consistent with the broad policy of the Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature. The name would become official following the publication in the MPCs of a brief citation explaining its significance. The Commission defines the discovery as the earliest apparition at which an orbit useful in the establishment of identifications was calculated; in the case of double designations during the same apparition, priority will be given in order of announcement of discovery, unless the double designation follows from an orbit computation using the observations made according to the second announcement. Further, the Commission proposes that, if the discoverer is deceased, or if a minor planet remains unnamed ten years after it has been numbered, a name could appropriately be suggested by identifiers of the various apparitions of the object, by discoverers at apparitions other than the official one, by those whose observations contributed extensively to the orbit determination, or by representatives of the observatory at which the official discovery was made. In such a case, the selection of a name shall be a judged by a committee of three, consisting normally of the President and Vice President of the Commission 20 and the Director of the Minor Planet Center, and the final decision shall be made not less than six months following the announcement of the numbering of the minor planet."

Patras, 1982

From Transactions of the IAU XVIIIB
"All names proposed for minor planets will be reviewed for suitability, even when names are proposed by discoverers. The review will be done as indicated in the 1979 Commission 20 resolution, except that in the case of a name proposed by the discoverer, the six-month waiting period for a newly numbered object can be reduced to two months. Names shall be limited to a maximum length of sixteen characters, including spaces and hyphens." [The review committee is composed of the President and the Vice President of the Commission and the Director of the Minor Planet Center.]

The last sentence, in [   ], was part of the original resolution but was apparently later removed before adoption, thus allowing discretion in the composition of the committee.   mfa.

Delhi, 1985

From Transactions of the IAU XIXB
"Names proposed for minor planets will not be accepted if, in the opinion of the Minor Planet Names Committee, they are too nearly similar to those of other minor or major planets or natural satellites, or are in questionable taste. Names should be pronounceable, preferably expressible as a single word, and no more than sixteen characters long. Names glorifying individuals or events principally known for their political or military activities or implications are considered unsuitable unless at least one hundred years have elapsed since the individuals died or the events concerned took place. Objects involved with the Jovian triangular libration points should be named in accordance with the tradition of honoring heroes of the Trojan War. In a disputed case, the proposer may appeal the comittee's decision at a general meeting of Commission 20, provided that due written notice is given to the President of the Commission."

Sydney, 2003

The following resolutions were passed during the business meeting in Sydney.

Summary of Guidelines (pre-2003)


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Created: 1999/03/25, mfa; Last Update: 2000/07/08, mfa