Friday, 30 May 2014

Could Bolster, Cormoran, and Tregeagle be orbiting Saturn someday?

Ever wondered who decides on names for planets, satelites of planets, and features on planets?

Well, it's the International Astronomical Union, and there is a website about it all hosted by the US Geological Survey .

That is the same body that reduced Pluto from being a major planet to a dwarf planet, in the same 2006 decision, the minor planet Ceres got an upgrade to dwarf planet.

There is often a common theme to particular areas, such as many of the moons of Saturn are named after the Titans in Greek mythology. The problem was they discovered many more satellites around Saturn in recent years, and they ran out of Titans.

Therefore the IAU started using giants from other mythologies, grouping the outer irregular satellites by their orbital parameters into the 'Inuit', 'Norse' and 'Gallic' groups, the latter including Albiorix, Erriapus, Tarvos and Bebhionn. Three of these are Gaulish names, although perhaps the IAU considers Gallic and Celtic to be equivalent, since Bebhionn is named after a characted in Irish mythology.

If we discover some more moons, perhaps the Cornish giants Bolster, Cormoran, or Tregeagle will be orbiting Saturn alongside them.