Minor planet designation

The naming of asteroids and comets expires after a two step process. Immediately after their discovery, they will get a so-called provisional name of numbers and letters, which primarily includes the discovery date for a by the International Astronomical Union ( IAU) defined scheme. After the precise orbit of a newly discovered asteroid was determined and confirmed by independent observers, the discoverer has the right to propose a name of this object, which is then formally awarded by the IAU considering various criteria. Comets are, however, now always named after their discoverers.

  • 2.1 asteroids
  • 2.2 comets

Provisional name

The current naming scheme was formed from older systems by extension, so older designations are consistent with more recent.


The provisional name of the newly discovered asteroid or comet is formed by the IAU reference to the discovery date of the following components:

Tabulated character encoding of the naming schema:


In 2004, therefore, the first discovered asteroid 2004 AA was called starting from January 1. This scheme is then passed through to 2004 AZ, which is then followed by the next run of 2004 AA1. It is long gone through until January 16 begins ( according to UTC time); the first letter changes so that on B, and the count is continued with BA in 2004.

An example of the order of the names in one half of the month, using the example of the second half of September 1995: 1995 SA, 1995 SB, ..., 1995 SY, 1995 SZ, 1995 SA1, ..., 1995 SZ1, 1995 SA2, ..., 1995 SZ9, 1995 SA10, etc.

The now under the name of ( 90377 ) Sedna known celestial bodies had the provisional designation 2003 VB12. So he was discovered in the first half of November 2003 ( V) and was the 302nd discovery in this period (B12 → 2 12 * 25 = 302).

Comet discoveries are named similarly: 2004 A1 is the first comet discovered the period from 1 to 15 January 2004, 2004 A2 of the second, etc.

The comet Hyakutake, for example, is also performed under the name C/1996 B2. Hyakutake was thus the second comet, which was discovered in the second half of January 1996. Its orbital period is how the C indicates greater than 200 years.

Durable Name


The names of the asteroids are composed of a prefix number and a name. The number used to line the order of discovery of the celestial body. Today it is a purely numerical Zählform, as it is only awarded if the orbit of the asteroid is secured (ie, the object is retrievable at any time ). This may well also be delayed until years after the Erstbeobachtung.

The discoverer has within ten years after the numbering right to nominate the allocation of a name. However, this must be confirmed by a Commission of the IAU, as there are guidelines for the names of astronomical objects. Accordingly, although many asteroids exist with number but no name, especially in the upper ten thousands.

The first asteroid was discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi at the observatory of Palermo in Sicily. Piazzi christened the celestial body on the name Ceres Ferdinandea. The Roman goddess Ceres is the patron saint of the island of Sicily. The second name was Piazzi King Ferdinand IV, honor the ruler of Naples and Sicily. This displeased the international research community, and allowed this name part away. The official name of the asteroid is, therefore, ( 1) Ceres.

In the further discoveries, the nomenclature has been maintained, and the asteroids were named after Roman and Greek goddesses; These were ( 2) Pallas, (3) Juno, (4) Vesta, ( 5) Astraea, (6 ) Hebe, etc. Initially was also the unwritten law that asteroids were always female names; this was broken for the first time at the asteroid (334 ) Chicago.

As more and more asteroids were discovered, astronomers went from the ancient deities. So asteroids were, among others, by the wives of the discoverer, named in honor of historical figures or public figures, cities and fairytale characters. Examples include the asteroid (21 ) Lutetia, (216 ) Cleopatra ( 719) Albert, (1773 ) Rumpelstiltskin ( 2807 ) Karl Marx ( 5535 ) Anne Frank (9000 ) Hal, ( 17744 ) Jodiefoster. This practice also drove some strange flowers. So the 1935 discovered planetoid ( 1372 ) Haremari example, named in honor of the staff of the Astronomical Institute rake in Heidelberg, as the harem of ARI. Another interesting example is the asteroid ( 2309 ) Mr. Spock, who was not named after the Star Trek character, but after the eponymous cat of the discoverer. This meant that the IAU declared the naming of asteroids after pets as undesirable.

In addition to names from Greek and Roman mythology also names of deities from other cultures are used, especially for newly discovered large objects, such as ( 20000) Varuna, (50000) Quaoar and ( 90377 ) Sedna.

After 2006, the new category of dwarf planets was introduced, Ceres retained the number 1, and the previously classified as planet Pluto as well as Eris new numbers were assigned in this series.


For example, usually a comet is named after its discoverers, so is the comet Shoemaker- Levy 9 comet of the ninth, the Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker discovered along with David H. Levy. A few periodic comets are but also named after those astronomers who first calculated its orbit: Halley's comet is named, for example, by Edmond Halley, who first recognized that some comets past observations are part of a recurring at regular intervals of 76 comets.

Through systematic automated sky surveys, especially for potentially dangerous Earth's orbit cruisers (including the high number of passes of more recent discoveries therefore ) are among many asteroids, many comets have been found by these programs. The provisional name the name of the observer group is then additionally appended in brackets, in the tradition of naming after the discoverers. So all the comets found by the search program LINEAR have part of the name, LINEAR ', or (if the discovery at the same time another observer or another observer group succeeded ) a combined, eg, LINEAR - NEAT '. For example, the comet called C/2002 T7 (LINEAR ), which was discovered on 14 October 2002 and in May 2004, reaching an apparent magnitude of about 2mag.

Short-period comets, which are protected as such, receive a permanent serial number followed by the character encoding of their car and the name of the discoverer or Bahnberechners. For example, 2P/Encke the second (after Halley ) from the current 293 comets (as of: September 19, 2013) who has received such a permanent number.