NASA scientists in a battle with astronomers over who gets to name things on Vesta and Mars.


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A rose by any other name: NASA scientists are in a battle with astronomers over who gets to name things on Vesta and Mars.

This is not a new problem. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has maintained its power over naming everything in space since the 1960s, even though the IAU has sometimes ignored the wishes of the actual discoverers and explorers and given names to things that no one likes. For example, even though the Apollo 8 astronauts wanted to give certain unnamed features on the Moon specific names, the IAU refused to accept their choices, even though those astronauts were the first human beings to reach another world and see these features up close.

Eventually, the spacefarers of the future are going to tell the IAU where to go. And that will begin to happen when those spacefarers simply refuse to use the names the IAU assigns.

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  • Planetary scientists too will eventually tell the IAU where to go if the IAU does not budge from its determination to never reopen the planet definition discussion. The organization adopted a terrible definition and now refuses all requests to reopen the issue, even though its planet definition pertains only to our solar system and not to exoplanets. Significantly, of the four percent who voted on the controversial IAU decision in 2006, most are not planetary scientists but other types of astronomers.

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