IAU Transactions

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IAU Transactions


The IAU's decisions affecting lunar nomenclature (and other matters) are normally published in the triennial Transactions of that organization. This page gives links to scanned copies of the passages from each year relevant to the official names and positions of features on the Moon.

In recent years the transactions have been published in two parts. Volumes marked "A" are denoted Reports on Astronomy and summarize activities by the IAU and others during the preceding three years. Those marked "B" are the actual Proceedings of the General Assembly where the resolutions passed are published. Actions related to lunar nomenclature can appear in either or both, and it is frequently difficult or impossible to tell what proposals were actually voted upon and what the outcomes of the votes were. Until recently, changes in lunar nomenclature were not, technically, regarded as official until they had been "approved" by the General Assembly. In reality, the 1948 vote on Deslandres is quite probably the only instance in which a specific name proposal was brought to such a vote. Many General Assemblies adopt resolutions endorsing the activities of the various Commissions (whose actions and conclusions are rarely reported with clarity). A more practical standard for the approval of new names and name changes by the IAU seems to have been that they be published (or referenced) somewhere in the Reports or Transactions. Under new "terms of reference" adopted in 2006, approval of changes made by the WGPSN is now instantaneous upon publication in the on-line IAU Planetary Gazetteer, however a later "official" summary of such changes in the Transactions is still expected, so the Transactions remain relevant.

Note: The following scans represent the lunar nomenclature sections from all the IAU Transactions to which I have ready access. In particular, I do not have the 1922 issue, or those from 1928-1955. The content of the missing volumes relevant to lunar nomenclature has been guessed at from the prefatory material to Named Lunar Formations and other sources. If anyone has access to these missing issues, please scan the lunar nomenclature pages from them and add them to the Wiki -- or send me a copy and I can do so. Thanks. - Jim Mosher

Scanned Excerpts


IAU Transactions I

  • scanned excerpts of this volume are not yet available
  • First report of IAU Commission 17 (Lunar Nomenclature), H.H. Turner (Oxford University), President, instituted at the founding of the IAU in 1919. Commission 17 took over the duties of a similar committee operating, since 1907, under the auspices of the International Association of Academies. The members are Turner, M. Blagg, G. Bigourdan, W. Pickering, and P. Puiseux. In the first report Mary Blagg indicates she has completed a lunar map in 14 sections and added numbers from her Collated List to it.
  • The General Assembly votes to recommend the Commission continue its work, "now almost complete."


IAU Transactions II

  • Second report of Commission 17: Lunar Nomenclature.
  • Mary Blagg again presents her lunar map, to which names will be added to replace the numbers from the Collated List.
  • Rules for choosing names where previous authorities differ are proposed.
  • Capital Roman letters to be used for satellite craters, Greek letters for hills and mountains, numbers for rilles.
  • A catalog is to be published if the plan is adopted.
  • Features visible at favorable libration may or may not be included.


IAU Transactions III

  • scanned excerpts of this volume are not yet available, although most of the relevant text can be viewed (but not downloaded) on Google Books.
  • Commission 17 approves Mary Blagg's list of 412 names for which Mädler, Schmidt and Neison agree, and 95 more generally accepted, but not used by all three.
  • 57 other names where there is disagreement, or the existence of the formations is uncertain, are left for consideration
  • Dr. Müller presents lists of additional names proposed by Krieger, Müller, Wilkins and Lamèch.
  • Blagg also presents lists of new names by Birt, Gaudibert, Lee, Pickering and Elger.
  • Dr. Müller is appointed to expand the Collated List.
  • E.W. Brown is elected President of the Commission.
  • Blagg presents bill for £8 12s 6d to cover cost of photographing lunar maps. The General Assembly adds £20 to cover "such other documents as may be useful."
  • A proposal to assign a fixed abbreviation to each primary name (similar to the IAU constellation abbreviations) is considered.


IAU Transactions IV

  • scanned excerpts of this volume are not yet available, although most of the relevant text can be viewed (but not downloaded) on Google Books.
  • Dr. Müller's expansion of the Collated List to include new names proposed by Krieger, Müller, Fauth, Wilkins (1924) and, to a lesser extent Lamèch, is approved. New names on Wilkins 200-inch map are rejected.
  • Dr. Müller also adds many small formations with positions measured by Franz and Saunder, and removes a number of indefinite objects. A desire to publish Müller's list is expressed, but funds are said to not be available.
  • The General Assembly approves a grant of 5000 francs (£200) to pay for publication of Miss Blagg's definitive final list and a list of corrections to the original Collated List.
  • The disposition of the reference maps is left for further consideration, the most likely proposal being to publish them along with corresponding photos supplied by F. E. Wright. It appears that the features on Blagg's maps may still have only reference numbers at this point.


IAU Transactions V

  • scanned excerpts of this volume are not yet available, although most of the relevant text can be viewed (but not downloaded) on Google Books.
  • Publication of Blagg and Müller's list and reference maps as Named Lunar Formations, in two volumes, is announced and endorsed. The idea of including photographic maps had been discarded, as has, it appears, the idea of publishing a list of corrections to the Collated List
  • The nomenclature work being complete, the General Assembly votes to divide Commission 17 into two sub-Commissions, one for physical research including visual and photographic study of the surface and the other for mathematical theory and occultations.


IAU Transactions VI

  • scanned excerpts of this volume are not yet available
  • Commission 17 is renamed ‘Movement and Figure of the Moon’. The nomenclature committee, its initial job completed, is absorbed into Commission 16, ‘Physical Observations of Planets and Satellites.’


IAU Transactions VII

  • scanned excerpts of this volume, the first General Assembly held after World War II, are not yet available
  • Commission 16 proposes the name Deslandres, suggested by E. Antoniadi in 1942, for the large but formerly unnamed region encircling the crater Hell.
  • The proposal is adopted.
  • 22 new names requested by H.P. Wilkins for his 100-inch map are rejected.


IAU Transactions VIII

  • scanned excerpts of this volume are not yet available
  • According to Whitaker, Commission 16 again rejects Wilkins request for approval of new names.


IAU Transactions IX

  • scanned excerpts of this volume are not yet available
  • Commission 16, G.P. Kuiper, President, again rejects Wilkins request for approval of new names: "The Commission recommends that at the present time – and particularly pending the completion of the proposed photographic map of the Moon – no official recognition shall be given to additional lunar nomenclature."


IAU Transactions X

  • much activity related to the Moon is reported, but none to lunar nomenclature


IAU Transactions XIA

IAU Transactions XIB

  • Committee 16a of IAU Commission 16 assumes duties related to lunar nomenclature and cartography.
  • the meaning of East and West on the Moon is reversed, and the north-up convention is introduced for "Astronautical" maps.
  • "East" and "West" are not to be used on (south-up) "Astronomical" charts.
  • altitudes and distances are to be expressed in metric units.
  • corrections to the Blagg and Müller nomenclature of 1935, published as Table III in Kuiper's Photographic Lunar Atlas are approved. However, the Commission, chaired by French astronomer A. Dolfus, emphatically rejected Kuiper's proposed corrections to the spelling of several French names. According to Whitaker, Table III (now available on this Wiki) lists 45 minor changes in spelling (including those not approved), 13 deletions and 18 clarifications of outline or identification.
  • a system of Latinized names designating different categories of features is adopted. Latin prefixes mons, promontorium, rima and vallis introduced.
  • craters to be named for deceased scientists.
  • new names "to be avoided", with the unnamed features to be designated by coordinates or by extension of the existing system of Roman letters and numbers and Greek letters.
  • an initial set of 18 names for farside features is adopted, based on the Farside Atlas of Barabashov et. al.


IAU Transactions XIIA

IAU Transactions XIIB

  • D.W.G. Arthur presents list of changes introduced in System of Lunar Craters and the related Lunar and Planetary Designations, the Rectified Lunar Atlas, and the LAC series of 1:1,000,000 lunar topographic maps.
  • The list includes approximately 73 new names in the libration zones, 4 deletions, 8 changes in outline or identification, and many changes in spelling.


IAU Transactions XIIIA

  • Commission 17, D.H. Menzel (Harvard University, President) reports on the great burst of interest in lunar matters stimulated by the U.S. and Soviet space probes.
  • Arthur and Kuiper announce completion of their system of "nomenclature for the Moon's visible hemisphere, which was proposed and approved by the IAU at its 1964 Hamburg meeting."
  • The U.S. Geological Survey announces completion of the first 33 of 44 geologic maps to complement the LAC series for the Moon's nearside.
  • Progress is reported in developing a three-dimensional system of surface control points.
  • An extension of the nearside nomenclature to the farside is recommended, with "craters named for deceased scientists, with special attention to astronomers." A sub-committee of Commission 17 is appointed to investigate the problem.

IAU Transactions XIIIB

  • U.S. and Soviet maps of the farside are presented, including a Soviet version with nomenclature already in place.
  • Various naming systems are reconsidered.
  • Commission 17 appoints a Working Group to assign provisional numbers to approximately 500 major farside formations, with the actual assignment of names to them to be deferred to the 1970 General Assembly. Smaller formations are to be designated by number.
  • Latin term thalassoids rejected as descriptor for farside basins.
  • Harold Urey presents a paper interpreting rilles as evidence of water on the Moon.


IAU Transactions XIVA

  • The Working Group on Lunar Nomenclature reports on its progress.
  • The four-member Working Group is international, and consists of members not personally working on lunar topography.

IAU Transactions XIVB

  • D.H. Menzel, Chairman of the Working Group on Lunar Nomenclature, describes the proposed scheme of nomenclature for the Moon's farside, to be separately published, including names, coordinates and biographies of the persons honored.
  • Honorees include six living Soviet cosmonauts and six living U.S. astronauts.
  • Professor Minnaert is reportedly working on a pronunciation guide to the new names.
  • Arthur, Koziel and others raise various objections to be resolved in the published report.
  • A Soviet proposal to name crater chains using the initials of Institutes is considered.
  • The names of five existing mountain ranges in the IAU nomenclature that could not to be clearly identified on photographs were removed.

supplemented by
Menzel, 1971

  • List of 513 names for farside craters is presented, along with the coordinates and a brief biography of the person honored.
  • Names that resembled others were eliminated from consideration.
  • Names were assigned to provisionally numbered craters at random, but trying to stay in agreement with previous Russian designations.
  • Some changes to existing assignments to feature categories are made; e.g., some "Mare" being renamed "Lacus".
  • A decision is made to honor the crews of Apollo 8 and 11, as well as six living Soviet cosmonauts.
  • The landing sites of Apollo 11 and the first Russian soft landing would also be commemorated.
  • Revised coordinates are given for the 18 farside names proposed in 1961, and one is deleted.
  • Three different craters are selected to honor the Curie family, previously honored by Joliot-Curie.
  • American designer and amateur astronomer Russell Porter is honored with the crater formerly known as Clavius B.
  • Seventeen other persons are honored by having their biographies added to existing features already honoring someone of the same name.
  • Biographical information is published for the new names added in 1961 and 1964.
  • Two of the 1964 names are moved to the farside.


IAU Transactions XVA

  • Formation of an "Inter-Union Commission for Lunar Studies" (IUCM) is announced, involving the IAU cooperating with scientific unions in other fields (e.g., geology), especially to establish unified nomenclature and coordinate systems.
  • The IUCM protests proposed cancellation of U.S. space missions Apollo 16 and 17.
  • The IAU, through the IUCM, also approaches the United Nations Working Group on "Names of Extraterrestrial topographic features".
  • The Working Group on Lunar Nomenclature presents its preliminary thoughts regarding the problem of naming small features, particularly in connection with the NASA's planned production of LTO charts.
  • NASA SP-241 is acknowledged as the best available summary of the existing nearside nomenclature, including the lettered craters.
  • But the system of Roman and Greek letters is deemed "cumbersome, and almost impossible to extend to smaller features."
  • Translation of coordinates into a coded name is also deemed unsatisfactory due to poorly defined coordinates, so a system of feature-specific names will be used, similar to the traditional one.
  • NASA requests that a principal (non-lettered) named feature be available in each LTO zone, so that it can be used to name the map.
  • The Chairman is contacting international groups for suggestions of names.
  • To meet the demand, the pool of potential names will be extended beyond physical scientists, and the prohibition against "sound-alike" names will be removed.
  • In addition the list will include a few distinguished scientists, primarily astronomers, who have died since the last general assembly.
  • For very small features, "given names," such as "John" and "Mary" might be used.
  • The names selected "shall continue to exclude all political figures, national heroes, religious figures, and modern philosophers."

IAU Transactions XVB

  • After lively debate, the Working Group produces a revised proposal, also hotly debated, regarding the naming of small features and then a final draft adopted by the General Assembly.
  • The IAU adopts the LAC system of 144 lunar Regions, each subdivided into 16 Provinces (the LTO zones).
  • Each Province is to be named after a conspicuous feature within it, different from the name of the surrounding Region.
  • Positions within a Province can be designated by a grid system with 24 letters on each side.
  • Greek letters, previously used to designate elevated areas, are dropped. Such features will require new names.
  • Lettered craters will "progressively be assigned new and distinctive names". The old names will continue to be listed on detailed maps, and eventually a complete cross-reference table will be prepared.
  • "Rimae and Rima systems will receive new and more appropriate designations"
  • The new terms Dorsum and Catena are introduced for ridges and crater chains.
  • The pool of names available for lunar features is expanded from deceased scientists to include other "distinguished, deceased contributors to human culture and knowledge, such as writers, painters, musicians, etc."
  • Very small features may be identified using male and female first names of three syllables or less.
  • A list of approved Apollo landing site feature names was developed by negotiation between the astronauts, Apollo investigators and the IAU Working Group.
  • A "complete corrected list" of the new names adopted since 1958 is printed in this volume of the Transactions, including two names, Minnaert and Abbot, that are explicitly mentioned as not having been previously announced. In addition to these two, the list contains quite a number of other names that had not been published in earlier Transactions. These seem primarily to be names used by NASA as titles for its LTO charts. Although the feature names and positions are listed, the persons being honored are not stated. Many are identified in the IAU Planetary Gazetteer as scientists who died in 1972 or 1973.
  • A new 'Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature' is formed, with P. M. Millman as Chairman. The WGPSN includes several Task Groups assuming the nomenclature duties formerly handled by Commissions 16 and 17. The WGPSN is an independent body, reporting directly to the Executive Committee of the IAU.


IAU Transactions XVIB

  • First official report of the WGPSN under the Presidency of P.M. Millman.
  • Basic Principles of planetary nomenclature published.
  • List of Latin terms published
  • Additional sources of names are suggested, although "individuals known primarily as religious figures; or as military leaders, political leaders, and philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries" continue to be excluded.
  • Names of non-scientists are not to be used on lunar maps prior to the June, 1975 meeting of the WGPSN.
  • On LTO charts, where lettered names have been replaced by approved new names, the old lettered name is to be printed in brackets under the new one.
  • Lettered names are to be retained on the LMP series of maps.
  • Official Region names are assigned for each of the 144 LAC Regions.
  • A comprehensive list of Latin names for lunar feature categories is proposed.
  • The definition of Dorsum is extended to include both wrinkle ridges and normal ridges, and they are all to be named after geoscientists.
  • Rimae are to be named after the nearest feature, preferably a crater.
  • 47 new names are listed and approved "as assigned on the moon".
  • 107 additional new names introduced on the NASA LTO maps, some replacing lettered crater designations, are approved.
  • new names are approved for 12 lunar elevations, 6 lacus, 1 vallis, 12 catena and 1 mare.
  • a complete list of the approved Apollo landing site names is published, along with an explanation of the origin of the name, and what sort of feature is designated.
  • A name bank of 78 male and female first names is approved "for use as crater names in restricted areas of the moon".
  • A bank of 195 names of scientists is provided "for future use on the moon."
  • A separate bank of 20 names of scientists is provided for the same purpose.
  • A second Minkowkski is to be honored by the crater already bearing that name.
  • All official actions regarding nomenclature are to be published in the Transactions; and also a special publication is to be prepared containing all resolutions and comprehensive list of all officially approved names, to be added to with supplementary volumes following each later General Assembly.


IAU Transactions XVIIB

  • Commemorative names will not be approved until a minimum of three years after the date of death.
  • 54 new names for lunar features are "approved as assigned."
  • The names of 3 catenae are to be printed with the earlier Soviet designations (after research institutes) in brackets.
  • 95 first names (including "Walter") appearing on NASA Topophotomaps are "approved as assigned." The names honor no particular person.


IAU Transactions XVIIIB

  • Six new crater names, three replacing lettered names, are approved.


IAU Transactions XIXB

  • The category landing site name is officially adopted to designate "Lunar features at or near Apollo landing sites."
  • 56 new lunar names are "approved as assigned."


IAU Transactions XXA

  • "Seven craters on the farside of the Moon will be named for deceased American astronauts on the Challenger shuttle."


IAU Transactions XXIA

  • Eight new names are approved


IAU Transactions XXIIA

  • A Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the U.S. Geological Survey, if produced, will be recognized as an official documentation of planetary nomenclature approved by the IAU.
  • One new name is approved on the Moon.


IAU Transactions XXIIB

  • Eight new names are approved for lunar craters.


IAU Transactions XXIIIA

  • Jennifer Blue replaces Joel Russell as planetary nomenclature coordinator for the WGPSN at the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • One minor correction to lunar nomenclature.


IAU Transactions XXIIIB

  • Three new crater names approved.


IAU Transactions XXIVA


IAU Transactions XXIVB

  • The General Secretary imposes new "Terms of Reference" and demands greater diversity.
  • The WGPSN now reports to Division III, and can release provisional names immediately, subject to approval at the next General Assembly.
  • Two lunar feature names are dropped, and the spelling of twelve others is changed, including Walter --> Walther.
  • Six new crater names are added, including Harlan, the first since Tycho to be named after an astronomer by first name.


IAU Transactions XXVA

  • The lunar crater name Eppinger is retracted.


IAU Transactions XXVB

  • Proposals to name craters on the Moon after the seven astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster are received and considered.


IAU Transactions XXVIA

  • More than 7000 lettered craters are added, based largely on the list in NASA RP-1097.
  • The university library at which the other IAU volumes were found lists Volume XXVIB as "being processed."

IAU Transactions XXVIB

  • New "terms of reference" are adopted making crater name approvals by the WGPSN immediate upon publication in the on-line IAU Planetary Gazetteer, but subject to possible removal in the event of objections.
  • Eight new lunar crater names are approved: seven for the Columbia astronauts and one for a deceased lunar geologist (Ryder).


IAU Transactions XXVIIA

  • New rule according to which new names can be approved by the WGPSN without a vote of the General Assembly; subject to possible deletion if substantial objections are raised within three-months of the announcement in the IAU Planetary Gazetteer. This policy is rumored to have been approved at the 2006 General Assembly.
  • New rule announced in which dropped names will be retained in the Gazetteer, and not re-used except in exceptional circumstances.
  • The definition of the descriptive term mare is amended to include the "large expanses of dark materials thought to be liquid hydrocarbons" on Titan. On the Moon it still means "Sea; large circular plain".
  • No changes in lunar nomenclature were reported.

LPOD Articles


For those volumes for which scans are not available, the descriptions of their contents are based on Whitaker and Schimerman. - Jim Mosher