How Do Space Craters Get Their Names?

space-craters-names Credit: Richard Wahlstrom/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), an organization of astronomers, names the craters on planets and moons in the solar system by giving each planet a creative theme. For example, the moon’s craters are usually named for deceased explorers, scientists and scholars, while large craters on Venus are named for famous women in various professional fields.

According to the IAU, there are individual task groups assigned to planets and other celestial bodies. How official! Once the task group has reviewed the proposed names, the final stamp of approval comes from the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.

In addition to naming craters, the IAU assigns names to other notable planetary features, including plains, valleys and mountains. Mount Doom, named after a location in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” series, is one of these mountains; it can be found on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

The IAU accepts suggestions for names and themes from the public; however, they can’t promise that every submission will be approved. One group taking part in this process is a research team from Purdue University who, as of March 2015, was awaiting approval for a lunar crater named after Amelia Earhart, the famous American aviator.