Unofficial Names

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Unofficial, Informal and Discontinued Names


By international agreement, names for surface features on the Moon are not "official" unless they are currently approved by the IAU. In addition to these official names, there are many informal and unofficial names, and some once-official names that have been dropped. Some are in widespread use; others are not. The the-Moon Wiki includes lists of many of these. The present page also lists some informal/unofficial descriptive names that have been used by geologists and may not be specific to a particular feature. Unlike official IAU surface feature names, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what the unofficial names refer to. You may, therefore, well encounter some of these names used in ways other than that described here.

Discontinued IAU Surface Feature Names

(partial list)
Al-Tusi (King Y)
Cape Banat (aka Promontorium Banat)
Dorsum Lambert (disallowed name)
Eppinger (Euclides D)
Hercynian Mountains/ Montes Hercynii
J. Cassini
Mare Hiemis
Mare Novum
Mare Parvum
Mons Serao
Montes D'Alembert
Montes Doerfel
Montes Leibnitz
Montes Secchi
Montes Sovietici
Palus Nebularum
Pietrosul Bay
Promontorium Banat (Cape Banat).
Promontorium Lavinium
Promontorium Olivium
Rima Burckhardt
Rima Byrgius
Riphaeus Boreus
Riphaeus Medius
Riphaeus Major
Riphaeus Minor
Sinus Gay-Lussac
W. Pickering (Messier A)

  • Note: over the years many formerly lettered craters have been given individual names. Also in 1973, nearly all the Greek-lettered names for elevated features on the lunar surface were dropped. These former letter designations form the vast bulk of the discontinued IAU names, but they are not listed here

The world's most complete ABC of Unofficial Lunar Nomenclature, Discontinued Nomenclature, disallowed names, proposed names, and nicknames (maintained by Danny Caes)

An earlier version of Danny's ABC was compiled in 2000, while reading E.A.Whitaker's book Mapping and Naming the Moon. Danny's early interpretation of Whitaker's many lists (lunar nomenclature) and his early list of unofficial lunar nomenclature and nicknames was online in an ancient GeoCities site.

Informal Geologic Surface Formation Names

The following terms apply more to surface types or textures than to specific features. Most were originally named after a surface feature near which they appeared, but scientists may apply them to similar textures appearing elsewhere on the Moon.
- Aires Elliptiques (observed by G.Delmotte and cartographed by F.C.Lamech). See also page LPOD Miscellany (item *A Ghost Basin Rim?*).
- Apennine Bench Formation
- Cayley Formation
- Frau Mauro Formation
- Lunar Ellipse of Fire (proposed by Farouk El-Baz, Sky and Telescope; june 1973).
- Maunder Formation (in Mare Orientale).
- Telemann Formation/ Telemann Unit (northwest of Oceanus Procellarum, near Markov and Sinus Roris).

Additional Information

See also: Invalid names on the Lunar Topographic Orthophotomaps.
  • This is an alphabetic overview of all the names on the LTO-maps which were not accepted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Some of those non-IAU names were also printed on the much more detailed Lunar Topophotomaps. Danny Caes explored each one of the Lunar Topographic Orthophotomaps and Lunar Topophotomaps, and included the numbers of the maps at the corresponding names.

Another important source is the book Mapping and Naming the Moon; a History of Lunar Cartography and Nomenclature by E.A.Whitaker (Cambridge, 2000), and the atlas The Moon by Hugh Percy Wilkins and Patrick Moore.

More sources:
- Op Ontdekking in het Maanland, by A.J.M.Wanders (Het Spectrum, 1949). Wanders' greenish-colored moonmap shows Riccioli's "terra"-names, and some of Krieger's subdivisions in the Carpathians and the Riphaeus range.
- Maanmonografieen, by Harry de Meyer (1969 version) and Tony Dethier (1989 version). Both books are goldmines for those who want to explore Wilkins's "new" nomenclature!
- The Hallwag moonmap by Hans Schwarzenbach. Shows many of Wilkins's "new" names!
- The Rand McNally moonmap. Shows some unofficial names of very mysterious origin (!), and also Wilkins's "new" names.
- The Falk moonmap. A cornucopia of unofficial names! (Lamech's, Wilkins's, Krieger's, etc...).

LPOD Articles

The Lunar Craters Houston, Florida And Texas -- Phil Stooke's overview of the informal Apollo 8 nomenclature
US-1 and Other Signposts -- Phil Stooke's overview of the informal Apollo 10/ Apollo 11 nomenclature