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Naming of Sites on the Moon


While speaking at the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru, PM Modi announced that the point where the Chandrayaan-3 lander touched down on the lunar surface would be named Shiv Shakti.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Lunar Names: A Tribute to Pioneers
  2. Lunar Landing Site Naming: The Role of International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Beyond
  3. IAU’s Process and Norms for Naming Planetary Objects

Indian Lunar Names: A Tribute to Pioneers

Notable Lunar Features
  • Beyond Landing Sites: The naming of lunar landing sites is just one instance of Indian recognition on the Moon.
  • Sarabhai Crater: A crater on the Moon honors Vikram Sarabhai, a visionary in India’s space endeavors.
Jawahar Sthal: A Legacy of Chandrayaan-1
  • Chandrayaan-1 Impact: Post Chandrayaan-1’s mission in 2008, the probe was intentionally crashed, and the impact site was named “Jawahar Sthal” in tribute to Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Nehru’s Legacy: ISRO proposed the name in honor of Nehru, recognizing his advocacy for scientific advancements and research in India.
  • Timing and Acceptance: The landing coincided with Nehru’s birthday, adding significance, and later the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially embraced the name.

Lunar Landing Site Naming: The Role of International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Beyond

IAU’s Authority in Celestial Naming
  • IAU Primacy: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the key authority for officially naming celestial bodies and their surface features, including lunar sites.
  • Founded in 1919: Established in 1919, the IAU holds responsibility for guiding space activities, including naming, with membership from 92 countries, including India.
  • Comprehensive Mission: Its mission encompasses the promotion and safeguarding of astronomy in various facets through global cooperation.
Guidelines for Lunar Names
  • Naming Framework: IAU formulates regulations and processes for naming lunar craters, mountains, valleys, and other topographical features.
  • Informal to Official: Initially, names are often informally assigned to mission sites. This practice has historical precedent, notably during the Apollo missions.
  • Apollo Missions: During Apollo, small craters and mountains near landing sites received informal designations (e.g., Shorty, St. George). Official names (e.g., Hadley Rille) were also utilized. Many informal names gained “official” status from IAU.
Historical and Cultural Influences
  • Names with Significance: Lunar features bear names of historical figures, scientists, astronauts, and cultural allusions.
  • Exemplary Naming: Renowned scientists and explorers frequently lend their names to lunar craters, honoring their contributions.
Involvement of Space Agencies
  • Collaborative Naming: National and international space agencies, like NASA and ESA, might propose names for significant lunar sites with historical or scientific value.
  • Suggesting Significance: Agencies play a role in suggesting names for areas with noteworthy relevance in space exploration.

IAU’s Process and Norms for Naming Planetary Objects

IAU’s Working Groups: Decision Makers
  • Expert-Led Process: IAU’s Working Groups play a central role in naming planetary objects.
  • Specialized Members: These groups comprise experts in planetary science, lunar geology, and related fields.
  • Proposing and Reviewing: They propose and review names for lunar features, handling the nomenclature process.
Approval and Implementation
  • Review and Approval: Working Group members vote to approve proposed names.
  • Official Nomenclature: Successful names become official IAU nomenclature, eligible for usage on maps and publications.
  • Objections Process: A three-month window allows for objections. Any objections are submitted to the IAU General-Secretary.
Norms for Naming Space Objects
  • Clarity and Uniqueness: IAU suggests names for planetary objects to be simple, clear, and unambiguous. Avoidance of duplication is important.
  • Exclusion of Certain Attributes: Political, military, or religious names are discouraged, except for pre-19th-century political figures.
  • Limited Commemoration: Honoring individuals on planetary bodies isn’t the primary aim. Exceptions can occur in specific cases.
  • Deceased Honorees: Persons being commemorated must have been deceased for a minimum of three years before a proposal can be submitted.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024