Researching Nomenclature Histories

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Researching Nomenclature Histories

(glossary entry)


Only a few of the feature name pages in the-Moon Wiki explain the origin of the current IAU names. Anyone with the interest and desire can easily discover this information and add it to the Wiki pages using variants of the procedure described here.


  1. Place the name of the feature of interest in the Search box in the left-hand panel of any the-Moon Wiki page and click the green arrow to see if the name is mentioned on any of the existing pages.
  2. Pay particular attention if the name is mentioned in one of the volumes of the IAU Transactions. If so, read the entry to see how the name was affected. The automated searches are usually, but not always reliable. For unknown reasons they tend to miss the long list of farside names introduced in Menzel, 1971, so you may wish to consult that page manually.
  3. Check to see if the name was part of the original IAU nomenclature of Blagg and Müller (1935). The on-line index is a useful starting point. It will give the Catalog Number of the primary names, and a link to a scanned copy of the original listing, which will identify (as "Authority") the first selenographer to use the name. Further details about catalog numbers that are not followed by a letter can be found (under the same number) in the Collated List (1913). The catalog numbers followed by letters represent features inserted after the latter work was published.
  4. If the name was part of the original IAU nomenclature (and has a number not followed by a letter), search for it in Mary Blagg's Collated List. The "flip-book" (now called "read on-line") versions are on-line searchable; but, again, the searches are not 100% reliable, so you may wish to look in the vicinity of the expected Collated List number. The Collated List will give references to the names under which the feature appeared in the books and maps by Neison, Julius Schmidt and Beer and Mädler. Searchable copies of all those works can be accessed via these links. If Blagg and Müller attributes the name to a still earlier source, the lists of Hevelius and Riccioli are also available on-line, although they are not readily searchable.
  5. If the name is not in Blagg and Müller, then it must have been added in one of the later IAU publications listed above, or in a related one such as the University of Arizona's System of Lunar Craters. In most cases a map showing the first use can be found on-line.
  6. As an alternative, do a Google search on Whitaker's book. Whitaker has compiled the origin information from Named Lunar Formations and other sources as Appendices at the end of his book. Note that in his tables Whitaker notes only the first appearance of the name. It is not always easy to tell if the name was originally applied to the modern feature with the same name. Also, some of the Appendix pages are not available for free viewing.
  7. It is also helpful to consult the available on-line map resources, which include the LPI Map Catalog, and the Quad Maps which accompanied the System of Lunar Craters and document the IAU nomenclature as it existed in about 1964. This is particularly important for checking the history of rille names, many of which were completely re-numbered and re-assigned in the System of Lunar Craters. The same applies to the no-longer-allowed Greek-lettered peak names, and to a less extent to the lettered crater names.
  8. The persons after whom the features are thought to be named are listed in the on-line IAU Planetary Gazetteer, and those attributions were automatically copied to the original Wiki pages. However, only starting with Menzel, 1971 has the IAU provided biographical data regarding the person(s) being honored at the time of the naming. Prior attributions in the Gazetteer were probably taken from the BAA's unofficial Who's Who In the Moon. Whether all the persons cited in that book are actually the ones the original name-givers had in mind is anybody's guess.

Additional Information

  • The preceding procedure focuses on what can be accomplished using freely available internet resources. Better, and most likely more efficient, searches can undoubtedly be performed by those with access to the original sources in printed form.
  • For those who don't have access to the printed edition of Whitaker's book the appendices listing the names attributed to various authors can be found here:
    Van Langren - Appendices A-D (328 kb)
    Hevelius - Appendices E-F (304 kb)
    Riccioli and later -- Appendices G-V (1.4 MB)

    • Note: Appendix U (p. 236) is somewhat confusingly titled: "ADDITIONS TO THE NASA CATALOGUE OF LUNAR NOMENCLATURE, RP-1097". Unlike the preceding appendicies, this is not a list of new names and name changes introduced in the document cited in the title. Instead, it is Whitaker's attempt to document changes published in the IAU Transactions after his 1982 compilation of NASA RP-1097 (see the Wiki's IAU Names Chronology for a more accurate and up-to-date list of IAU-approved changes since 1982). As explained in the text, Whitaker considers RP-1097 a more "correct" list of lunar nomenclature than the the IAU one, so he probably regards the names appearing in it, plus the additions mentioned in this table, to be the ultimate list. The authors of RP-1097 consciously chose to adopt non-IAU-approved spellings for some established features, and quite possibly chose to omit others, but (aside from the assignment of letters to 1667 farside craters near previously-named ones and the conversion of nearly all nearside double letters into previously unused single letters) they did not intentionally introduce any new names.

    • An additional source of confusion may be that Appendix U describes changes to features such as "Patsaev G", "Lewis R", etc. that involve "Pevious/name desiginations" not mentioned in any of the preceding tables. These are farside crater names, the primary parts of which were introduced in a long list published by the IAU in 1971 (not to be found in Whitaker's Appendicies).

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