Evolution of Naming Rules

Let us now turn to the historical evolution of naming minor planets. Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta are terms taken from classical mythology. With the increase of discoveries beginning around 1850 it seemed only natural to follow these examples. The name given to the early minor planet (12) Victoria, however, was the first of many to initiate a long controversy. One of the most pugnacious astronomers in this field was the founder of the Bilk Observatory near Dusseldorf, Luther (1861), who vehemently adhered to classical names. He dictated: "So lange als fur andere Himmelskörper, z.B. fur Sterne, Cometen, die Trabanten des Saturn und Uranus und sogar fur die Mondgebirge besondere Namen für zweckmäßig erachtet werden, durfte es auch zweckmäßig sein, die auf der classi-schen Mythologie beruhenden Planeten-Namen beizubehalten, indem die alleinige Bezeichnung durch Nummern leicht eine ergiebige Quelle von Fehlern und Verwechslungen werden konnte. Unclassische Namen sind freilich ... auf die Dauer nicht haltbar, so daß es rathsam sein wird, statt solcher ausschließlich die Nummern zu gebrauchen." [As long as people believe it appropriate to give special names to celestial bodies like stars, comets, the moons of Saturn and Uranus and even for the mountains of the Moon, it seems also appropriate to adhere to names from classical mythology, since a mere number could easily lead to mistakes and misunderstandings. Unclassical names, however, ... are not tenable in long run; instead of such an alternative, one should rather turn to the numbers alone.] His demand culminated in the rule: "Classische Namen werden gebraucht, unclassische verworfen; fur die unclassischen Namen haben die Berechner das Recht, classische Namen zu substituiren." [Classical names are necessary, unclassical names are rejected; (orbit) computers have the right to substitute classical names for unclassical ones. ]

This dogmatic attitude was immediately and strongly criticized. Steinheil (1861) noted smugly: "Welchen Vortheil aber soll es bieten ... nur classische Namen zu wahlen? Sollen uns die neuen Planeten daran erinnern, daß wir einst im Gymnasium gewesen sind? Hat die Astronomie der Philologie so viel zu verdanken, daß sie keiner anderen Erinnerung, als dieser, Raum geben soll? Ich glaube nicht, daß dieses nachgewiesen werden kann." [What advantage should there be ... in choosing only classical names? Are the new planets to remind us of having gone to a classical secondary school? Does astronomy owe so much to philology as to remember nothing but this? I do not think that this can be proved.] And he goes on: "Herr Dr. Luther scheint aber auch die practische Seite nicht genau erwogen zu haben, denn wenn zwei oder mehr Rechner einen Planeten bearbeiten, welcher soll das Recht der Umtaufe haben, oder soll es allen bleiben?" [It seems that Dr. Luther has not taken into account the practical side of his demand. Who should have the right to substitute unclassical names if two or even more orbit computers are working on the same planet; each of them?] Attempts to give up names entirely in favor of only numbering failed as well. Goldschmidt (1861) agreed to the defenders of a classical line such as the one taken by Luther, Hind, and the editor of the AN, Peters: "Ich stimme ... gegen die Abschaffung der Namen, da die größten Verwirrungen daraus entstehen wurden. Haben sich einige missfallige Namen eingestellt, so ist es nicht der Muhe werth, den Pathen deshalb Verdruß zu machen. An einem Planeten ist alles Ziffer, das einzige, was poetisch bleibt, ist der Name, und der soll auch wieder Ziffer werden, ohne daß eigentlich eine besondere Ursache dazu da ware." [I vote ... against the repeal of names, which would cause great confusion. Some displeasing names are not worth the trouble of annoying their patrons. A planet is all number - the name is the only poetic part of it, and this would now become again a number without there being a real cause to do so.] Peters (1861) tried to put an end to this controversy by standing on his authority as editor of the AN: "... glaube ich den Wunsch außern zu durfen, dass die Controverse uber den, in wissenschaftlicher Beziehung unerheblichen Gegenstand, in diesen Blattern nicht weiter gefuhrt werde." [... I do not like this controversy, which being of no scientific importance will not be discussed further in this journal. ]

The determination of the classicists remain unbroken, however. A decade and a half later Luther (1878) attacked again: "In Bezug auf die neuerdings wieder allzubunt werdenden Benennungen ... ware es zu Gunsten der Wurde der Wissenschaft gewiß sehr zu wunschen, daß die Entdecker dem alteren Brauche gemaß vorzugsweise klassisch mythologische Namen wahlen und neuere Anspielungen jeglicher Art vermeiden mochten... Durch strengeres Festhalten an den Namen des klassischen Alterthums ... wird es hoffentlich gelingen, die wachsende Schaar der kleinen Planeten vor zunehmender Gleichgultigkeit zu bewahren." [The names having now become a more than colorful mixture ... it seems very advisable to return to the old usage of preferring classical, mythological names. Allusions of any kind should be avoided - for the sake of the honor of science... A stricter adherence to classical names will hopefully help to shield the growing number of minor planets from increasing indifference.] Bruhns (1878) concurred with Luther: "... da einmal klassische Namen ublich und allgemein adoptirt sind, ist es das Vorteilhafteste, von dem Gebrauche nicht abzuweichen und alle Namen, welche sich auf lebende Personen oder auf vorubergehende Ereignisse beziehen, zu vermeiden... Nur durch die Wahl klassischer Namen wird es auch ferner moglich sein, den gewahlten Namen allgemeine Anerkennung zu verschaffen." [... classical names being in use and commonly adopted, it seems to be best not to deviate from this usage and to avoid all names referring to living people or current events ... Only the choice of classical names will further win general recognition.] At the end of the 19th century Holden (1896) still denounced some unclassical, female names by reproaching: "Many of them, at least, read like the Christian names in a girl's school."

After the number of minor planets had reached some 400, however, the classical line could no longer be maintained. The rule was restricted to the choice of female names. Bauschinger (1899) gave the opinion of the ARI by threatening: "Es ist Anlaß gegeben die Herren Entdecker zu ersuchen, bei der Namensgebung der kleinen Planeten von dem herkommlichen Gebrauch, weibliche Namen zu wahlen, nicht abzugehen; es ist dieser Gebrauch bisher nur einmal aus guten Grunden bei (433) Eros durchbrochen worden. Mannliche Personennamen werden im Berliner Jahrbuch keine Aufname finden." [There is reason to ask the discoverers not to deviate from the rule of choosing female names; so far this rule has only once been offended - and for a good reason - with (433) Eros. Male names will not be accepted in the BAJ.] Kreutz (1899) agreed and concluded that male names would not be admitted by the AN. This policy could, of course, not be long maintained. First, names of cities were given the feminine suffix 'a' or 'ia', until finally more and more male names were transformed in this way to follow the rule. This was practiced for a long time. While an exact date is unknown, World War II seems to have ended this procedure.

At the beginning of the 20th century the nature of the nomenclature problem changed notably. First there was a gradual abandoning of classical names - the large numbers forced a pragmatic approach. The importance of naming, however, has never been denied. Bauschinger (1901) argued for the policy of the ARI as expressed in the BAJ, edited by the Recheninstitut, as well as in the AN: "... darf nicht ubersehen werden, daß auch die Namen ihre volle Berechtigung haben. Abgesehen davon, daß ein durch 100 Jahre üblicher Gebrauch nicht ohne Nothwendigkeit aufgegeben werden sollte, bieten die Namen ein werthvolles mnemotechnisches Huelfsmittel ... Nummern und Buchstaben werden leicht verwechselt, der Namen dagegen prägt sich mit der ganzen Geschichte des Planeten leicht dem Gedachtnis ein." [...it may not be ignored that names have their justification, too. Other than the fact that a usage that has been practiced for a century should not be given up without necessity, names offer a good mnemotechnical tool ... numbers and letters are mixed up easily; a name, however, stamps upon the memory all the history of a planet.]

There was an appeal made to the discoverers to make use of their naming rights within a reasonable span of time. On behalf of the ARI, Bauschinger asserted that the right of giving a name should be withdrawn from the discoverer if a name had not been assigned to a planet after observations at a second opposition. This system has worked until the present time. In order to make this dictionary as complete as possible, the Minor Planet Center gave the order in MPC 17249 (1990 Dec. 2) that the resolution of IAU Commission 20 from 1979 would be applied: "... if the discoverer does not exercise his established right within ten years after the numbering of a minor planet, that right will be lost." As a consequence of the adoption of this resolution, the discoverers' rights of naming all planets with a number lower than (2378) was terminated effective 1991 May 1. A similar notice was announced in MPC 22089 (1993 June 4) in order to support the second edition of this dictionary: "... This applies to minor planets up to (2892), for which, under the "ten-year rule", discoverers will lose their naming privileges." For the benefit of the third edition this procedure was announced once more in MPC 26205 (1996 Jan. 5) and applied now to all minor planets up to (3414). The Editorial Notice in MPC 33151 (1998 Dec. 8) announced a similar procedure for the fourth edition which "... particularly applies to minor planets up to (4044)."

After the World War II, the rule of assigning names with female endings was finally given up. The note in MPC 837 leaves no doubt on this matter: "The custom of attaching feminine endings to masculine names has had numerous exceptions in the past. Names which are submitted will not be rejected or modified if they are masculine." This rule still exists, although quite recently some exceptions have again followed the traditional rules.

Compulsory regulations concerning the assignment of names were first given by Herget (1952) in MPC 837. The Minor Planet Center retained the decisive authority: "The discoverer may propose the name for each numbered planet, and this name shall be recognized only after it has been announced in the MPC. The announcement shall also contain an explanation of the significance of the name and the reason for assigning the honor." Without this rule, the meaning of many of the names and their patrons would tend to vanish in the dark of the history of astronomy. At the same time as announcing the regulations, Herget justified this procedure as well as his liberal attitude towards the assignment of names: "The principal justification for exercising control over the assignment of names is to avoid names which are too similar to others as to cause confusion, and to prevent names which are deliberately offensive or in bad taste. In the past, names have been rejected on the grounds of political connotations. This policy will not be continued in the future... The discoverer is usually motivated, with complete sincerity, to assign what he considers an honor, and his privilege should not be restricted because someone else holds a different opinion."

Herget's views did not remain unchallenged. Occasionally there were discussions about the admissibility of suggested names. These discussions were mainly about questions of taste and about eventual political implications. Regulations were discussed and resolutions were passed in various IAU General Assemblies. The Minor Planet Names Committee is the decisive authority. Before 1991, the Names Committee was composed of the President and Vice President of Commission 20 and the Director of the Minor Planet Center. When controversies arise the proposer of a name should have the right to appeal to the entire Commission 20. This right has been exercised in several cases, with differing results. The regulation in use at the present time was passed at the 1985 IAU General Assembly held in New Delhi. The resolution, published e.g. in MPC 10194 (1985 Dec. 27), reads as follows: "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 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 committee's decision at a general meeting of Commission 20, provided that due written notice is given to the President of the Commission." In view of the increasing problems in the field of nomenclature the suggestion to enlarge the Minor Planet Names Committee to seven members was accepted at the 1991 IAU General Assembly held in Buenos Aires. Subsequent actions by Commission 20 increased the size, renamed it the Small Bodies Names Committee at the 1994 The Hague General Assembly and required the group of nine experts, and in 1997 the Kyoto Assembly changed it into the Committee on Small Bodies Nomenclature with 13 astronomers (see Appendix 9) to judge on the names of both minor planets and comets. In the past, it has happened that names were chosen for natural satellites of the major planets that had already been assigned to minor planets; an agreement with the Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) was established in order to avoid an unnecessary duplication of names. After consultations, policies were also set down for naming transjovian bodies. As mentioned earlier the problems involved with the nomenclature of a terrific growing number of objects increase too.

The rapid evolution in naming minor planets also called for detailed decisions on the form of the citations. Mars-den (1995, unpublished) formulated the following guidelines: "Citations should be concise, to the point and devoid of remarks that, if tied directly to the name proposal they support, might cause some to think that the name should be rejected for some ... reasons ... Citations supporting names of persons should not be "potted biographies" (but they should include birth and death dates), nor those supporting names of places "travelogues." A name may have no obvious connection with astronomy in general or minor planets in particular; a more obscure connection would therefore be of interest to the readers and should be mentioned. Propaganda, whether political or for the aggrandisement of the proposer, should not be included in a citation. A name is often of very personal significance to the proposer; if the proposer chooses to acknowledge this in the citation, this should be done very specifically, rather than in terms of generalities. Final edit ing of the citations is done by the Minor Planet Center staff. The actual text of a citation will not exceed a maximum of ten printed lines in the MPCs." In view of increasing costs with the production of the printed MPCs the maximum size of the citations were shortened considerably in the meantime. Principles, guidelines and rules, necessarily, became more and more important constituents in this particular field of astronomy.

This dictionary cannot discuss in detail the evolution of specific nomenclature. Above all it cannot enter into particulars concerning the delicate question of who is the discoverer of a planet and who, after a discoverer's death, should have the moral right to assign a name to a planet. Recent discussions on such cases leave no doubt that many of our colleagues attach as much importance to the problem of nomenclature as was done more than a century ago.

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