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After a protracted debate this point of view has prevailed-in significant part due to its vigorous support by Soviet astronomers. Accordingly, the Mercury nomenclature committee, under the chairmanship of David Morrison of the University of Hawaii, has decided to name Mercurian impact craters after composers, poets and authors. Thus, major craters are named Johann Sebastian Bach, Homer and Murasaki. It is difficult for a committee of largely Western astronomers to select a group of names representative of all of world culture, and Morrison’s committee requested help from appropriate musicians and experts in comparative literature. The most vexing problem is to find, for example, the names of those who composed Han dynasty music, cast Benin bronzes, carved Kwakiutl totem poles and compiled Melanesian folk epics. But even if such information comes in slowly, there will be time: the Mariner 10 photography of Mercury, which discovered the features to be named, covered only half the surface of the planet, and it will be many years before the craters in the other hemisphere will be photographed and named.

In addition, there are a few objects on Mercury that have been recommended for other sorts of names for special purposes. The proposed 20° meridian of longitude passes through a small crater which the Mariner 10 television experimenters have suggested calling Hun Kal, the Aztec word for “twenty,” the base of Aztec arithmetic. And they have suggested calling an enormous depression, in some senses comparable to a lunar mare, the Caloris basin: Mercury is very hot. Finally, all of these names apply only to the topographic features of Mercury; the bright and dark markings, glimpsed dimly by past generations of ground-based astronomers, have not yet been mapped reliably. When they are, there will probably be new suggestions for naming them. Antoniadi proposed names for such features on Mercury, some of which-such as Solitudo Hermae Trismegisti (the solitude of Hermes, the thricegreat)-have a fine ring and perhaps will ultimately be retained.

NO PHOTOGRAPHIC maps of the surface of Venus exist, because the planet is perpetually enshrouded by opaque clouds. Nevertheless, surface features are being mapped by ground-based radar. Already it is apparent that there are craters and mountains, and other topographical features of stranger aspect. The success of the Venera 9 and 10 spacecraft in obtaining photographs of the planet’s surface suggests that someday photographs may be returned from aircraft or balloons in the lower Venus atmosphere.

The first prominent features discovered on Venus, regions highly reflective to radar, were given unassuming names such as Alpha, Beta and Gamma. The present Venus nomenclature committee, under the chairmanship of Gordon Pettengill of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposes two categories of names for Venus surface features. One category would be pioneers in radio technology whose work led to the development of the radar techniques that permit mapping the surface of Venus: for example, Faraday, Maxwell, Heinrich Hertz, Benjamin Franklin and Marconi. The other category, suggested by the name of the planet itself, would be women. At first glance, the idea of a planet devoted to women may appear sexist. But I think the opposite is true. For historical reasons, women have been discouraged from pursuing the sorts of occupations now being memorialized on other planets. The number of women after whom craters have so far been named is very smalclass="underline" Sklodowska (Madame Curie’s maiden name); Stickney; the astronomer Maria Mitchell; the pioneer nuclear physicist Lisa Meitner; Lady Murasaki; and only a few others. While by the occupational rules for other planets women’s names will continue to appear occasionally on other planetary surfaces, the Venus proposal is the only one that permits adequate recognition to be made of the historical contribution of women. (I am glad, however, that this idea will not be applied consistently; I would not myself want to see Mercury covered with businessmen and Mars with generals.)

In a fashion, women have traditionally been commemorated in the asteroid belt (see Chapter 15), that collection of rocky and metallic boulders which circle the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. With the exception of a category of asteroids named after heroes of the Trojan War, it used to be that all asteroids were named after women. First it was largely women of classical mythology, such as Ceres, Urania, Circe and Pandora. As available goddesses dwindled, the scope broadened to include Sappho, Dike, Virginia and Sylvia. Then, as the floodgates of discovery opened and the names of astronomers’ wives, mothers, sisters, mistresses and great-aunts were exhausted, they took to naming asteroids after real or hoped-for patrons and others, with a female ending appended, as, for example, Rockefelleria. By now more than two thousand asteroids have been discovered, and the situation has become moderately desperate. But non-Western traditions have hardly been tapped, and there are a multitude of Basque, Amharic, Ainu, Dobu and!Kung feminine names for future asteroids. In anticipation of an Egyptian-Israeli détente, Eleanor Helin of the California Institute of Technology proposed calling an asteroid she discovered Ra-Shalom. An additional problem-or opportunity, depending on how one views it-is that we may soon obtain close-up photographs of asteroids, with surface details that will cry out to be named.

Beyond the asteroid belt, on the planets and large moons of the outer solar system, no nondescriptive names have so far been bestowed. Jupiter, for example, has a Great Red Spot and a North Equatorial Belt, but no feature called, say, Smedley. The reason is that when we see Jupiter we are looking at its clouds, and it would not be a very fitting or at least not a very long-lived memorial to Smedley to name a cloud after him. Instead, the present major question on nomenclature in the outer solar system is what to name the moons of Jupiter. The moons of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have satisfying or at least obscure classical names (see Table 2). But the situation for the fourteen moons of Jupiter is different.
















The four large moons of Jupiter were discovered by Galileo, whose theological contemporaries were convinced by a vague amalgam of Aristotelian and Biblical ideas that the other planets could have no moons. The contrary discovery by Galileo was disconcerting to fundamentalist churchmen of the time. Possibly in an effort to circumvent criticism, Galileo called the moons the Medicean satellites-after his funding agency. But posterity has been wiser: they are known instead as the Galilean satellites. In a similar vein, when William Herschel of England discovered the seventh planet he proposed calling it George. If wiser heads had not prevailed, we might today have a major planet named after George III. Instead we call it Uranus.



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