Talk:Minor planet designation

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1 Ceres vs. (1) Ceres[edit]

From the link: "Cunningham (1988) asserts that the symbol of a number enclosed by a circle was the official designation for asteroids until 1931 when the current nomenclature of the number, sometimes enclosed in parentheses in paper titles and indices, followed by the name without a separating comma was adopted" (Though he quibbles about the dating, he uses the parentheses-free version, and Cunningham himself is a citable source for no parentheses being a possible form, even if his timeline is disputed.)

Admittedly, that's a long article, and it's easy to miss parts. I've clarified in the cite. Adam Cuerden talk 12:16, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

The recent (13.09.2006) decision to number Eris contained the parentheses: [1], first link on [2] -- Jordi· 13:34, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
True. And the article does show that both are in use. I'll make a tweak. Adam Cuerden talk 13:39, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Furthermore the IAU search form page for MP designations [3] states the following:
Enter either a minor-planet number, name or combination of number and name in one of the following forms:
(433) Eros
Note that numbers should be enclosed within parentheses (snip)
My bolding. -- Jordi· 13:41, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Yes, but that's instructions for using a search engine, not a guideline for all usages. See what you think of the current edit? Adam Cuerden talk 13:51, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Current version looks good to me. I did do a slight revisement of the first mention of the parentheses format after your last edit. The IAU/MPC website is quite hard to navigate, the links I posted are the only ones I could find which go into the number-name format at all. Most results are about comets, which follow different rules (comets never take parentheses), or provisional designations (2003 UB313 etc.). -- Jordi· 13:57, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Right then! Sorry about over-stating the case like that. Adam Cuerden talk 14:14, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

More evidence that the IAU itself seems to prefer the parentheses in those cases where it discusses official designations: [4], [5], [6], et al.. It seems that in casual use 4 Vesta is accepted, but the official designation is (4) Vesta. This should also impact the Wikipedia naming policy for minor planets. -- Jordi· 14:24, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

It should, but renaming and updating all the links would need a bot to do it at all reasonably. As well, there may be an aesthetic arguement for lack of parentheses in an encyclopedia, if the lack of them is reasonably accepted. Shall we check a few secondary sources?Adam Cuerden talk 14:27, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
In any case I would prefer to involve more people before any move is done. Is there a Wikiproject responsible for the minor planet articles? If so, they would be the ones to contact.
Sources for this are quite hard to find as Google does not easily allow you to search for literal strings. Any search for "(4) Vesta" also returns results for "4 Vesta" (and vice versa), contaminating the search results. -- Jordi· 14:33, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Right. This source doesn't use them [7], but oddly enough, is a version of an MPC press release with the parentheses removed.

NASA uses both:no parentheses but With parentheses (Over the next couple of years we will certainly come to better understand the mysterious object known variously as Comet 95P/Chiron or minor planet (2060) Chiron.) but again no parentheses. Seems to be mostly without, though. The ESA may favour no parentheses, but I haven't been able to find large numbers of references.

Who knows? Adam Cuerden talk 14:38, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

On the sources I've checked thus far:
  • IAU/MPC: (#) NAME) in all lists. Also in some articles/press releases, # NAME in other articles/press releases. No occurences of NAME or # as the sole reference in an article seen.
  • NASA: Uses NAME, (#) NAME and # NAME intermittently.
  • ESA: Only uses NAME, occasionally combined with asteroid number #
  • Non-scientific press: NAME is most common, numbers are rare. When listed it is usually in the format # NAME, sometimes asteroid number #.
  • Scientific papers: Divided between the # NAME and (#) NAME camp.
It is a mess. -- Jordi· 14:55, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Think you mean "NASA: Uses # NAME, (#) NAME and NAME intermittently"? But, agreed, a mess. Best to list both options (and maybe NAME as well as an informal usage), think ye? Adam Cuerden talk 15:03, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Both options should be listed, preferably with (#) NAME first as it seems to be more official (according to the IAU pages anyway).
Just the NAME means the MPC Catalogue number is dropped -- as is done in popular usage. It is not an alternative ;)
I just noticed Astronomical_naming_conventions#Minor_planets contains the following interesting quote:
Thus for instance, (28978) 2001 KX76 was given the name Ixion and is now known as (28978) Ixion, which is often abridged to 28978 Ixion.
This claim ("abridged" to no parentheses) also supports that the official designation contains parentheses. -- Jordi· 15:10, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Added it in. So, it appears we have an official version and a well-established variant. I'm slightly in favour of the variant for Wikipedia - it seems somewhat more established in popular articles (It was also used in New Scientist when announcing Pluto's gaining of one), and looks slightly better as an article title, in my opinion. Still, it may well be worth a vote, though it would be difficult to prepare: Adding the warning of vote to over 100,000 articles (Well, less, probably - don't think we have all of them. 10s of thousands, though.) would need bot assistance. Adam Cuerden talk 15:32, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Just want to say that there's some excellent sleuthing work gone on above! It seems to bear out my previous assumptions about what is "more official", but it's not a big point. My main point has always been the distinction between number and name. aLii 15:55, 10 October 2006 (UTC)


Are my choices of examples to controversial? The intent was to show reasonably well-known objects with MPC Numbers, but I'm not sure if Pluto is too controversial - perhaps Eris would be better for now? Adam Cuerden talk 15:05, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

I think Pluto is fine as an example. The only point to consider is to make sure that it is distinguished from the main planets — i.e. they don't have MPC numbers, and Pluto has only recently been given one due to its recategorization. aLii 15:57, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Aye. Probably not something that will get settled in its title until things have calmed down, though - if we can all get this upset over Ceres... Ach, well. If anyone dislikes it, there's something like 150,000 others to choose from. Adam Cuerden talk 16:02, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Ceres, Eris and Pluto are bad examples to use here, because it is disputed whether they are minor planets at all (despite Pluto being given a designation by the MPC), and this article is about minor planet (not dwarf planet) naming etc. It is possible to avoid the controversy entirely by choosing as an example an object that no-one doubts is a minor planet (like Sedna, which is what I used). --Cuddlyopedia 06:35, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough, but I thought dwarf planet was a class of minor planet? Drat, though: Just after I explained Eris' code. What's Sedna's? I'll rewrite the section. Adam Cuerden talk 06:45, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
Blame the IAU (who else) for the confusion. Resolution 5A said that small solar-system bodies included "most asteroids", which means that there has to be at least one asteroid that isn't an SSSB, and the only candidate was Ceres. But in a Q&A on the IAU site [8] at Q12 we get: "Ceres is (or now we can say it was) the largest asteroid...". You pays your money.... --Cuddlyopedia 09:00, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Name of Article[edit]

Should it be "Minor Planet Number", "Minor planet number" or "MPC Number"? For that matter, "Number" or "Numbers"? Should all of these be redirects? Adam Cuerden talk 15:09, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

For that matter, should it be something else entirely? Adam Cuerden talk 15:04, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Latest edits by Cuddlyopeia[edit]

I've reverted them: There were several misunderstandings that muddled the article:

  • The minor planet number is *not* called a designation, designation is just a convenient term to refer to the full official thingie that it's listed as in scientific articles without causing confusion with the part of the designation known as its name.
  • The asteroid is NEVER referred to by number alone: It would be assigned a provisional name even if its orbit was determined before the MPC were informed. The minor planet number does not replace the provisional name, the NAME (e.g. Eris) replaces the provisional name, whilst the number remains. As well, only after the orbit is known to sufficient certainty is a number assigned, hence "Where a designation number has not yet been assigned, a provisional designation will be given", besides the error of thinking "designation" has significant meaning, is inaccurate. For one thing, the provisional designation is used WITH the number, once the number is assigned.
  • The second paragraph is describing the designation changes from discovery to being assigne d a proper name to go with the number.
  • The controversy over whether the dwarf planets are asteroids is meaningless to this article: "Minor Planet" is synonymous with the new term "Small Solar System Bodies" (a confusing term, mind, as it doesn't include comets, as far as I'm aware). Dwarf planets and asteroids are two important subsets of minor planets, and both get minor planet numbers (c.f. Pluto). There may be other reasons not to mention Pluto, of course, but Eris is extremely fair game, as far as I'm awre, as a very famous example of an object that went through all the stages of the process recently.

In short, I'm afraid that the changes didn't make much sense, even if they show places that need clarification, which I'll do. Adam Cuerden talk 17:50, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

I'm not the one with the misunderstandings! I'll refer you to the IAU's Committee on Small-Body Nomenclature web-page entitled 'Names of Minor Planets' at [9], which I will quote in full:
"Provisional Designation
"Minor planets are each given a provisional designation when they are discovered and confirmed. These designations are based on the date of discovery and are assigned by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) according to a well defined formula. A general discussion of the system of designations of minor planets is available at the MPC.
Permanent Designation
When the orbit of a minor planet becomes very well determined so that the position can be reliably predicted far into the future (in most cases this means after the minor planet has completed two or even more observed orbital periods), the minor planet receives a permanent number (issued sequentially by the Minor Planet Center) and becomes eligible for naming.
When an asteroid receives a permanent designation, the discoverer of the asteroid is invited to suggest a name for that asteroid. There are extensive guidelines for the choice of names but ultimately the name must be approved by the CSBN. Further details of the procedures for naming minor planets are available at the MPC. The guidelines for the names are described here. A list of minor planet names assigned is prepared each triennium for the General Assembly. The list for GA XXVI in Prague in 2006 is available here. A merged, alphabetic list of all names is available at the Minor Planet Center, as is a list of discovery circumstances."
Web-based utilities to interactively cross-reference designations and names are available both at the MPC and at the Small Bodies Node of NASA's Planetary Data System (SBN-PDS)."
I'll also refer you to the MPC web-page entitled 'How are Minor Planets Named' at [10]. I won't quote that in full (though you can read it for yourself), but will highlight the following quotes:
"When observations on two nights of a new object are available they are reported to the Minor Planet Center, which assigns a provisional designation to the object."
"When there are observations at four or more oppositions the object may receive a permanent designation, a number."
"The discoverer of the numbered object is defined to be the same as the discoverer of the principal designation. This discoverer is accorded the privilege of suggesting a name for his/her discovery."
"Names are judged by the fifteen-person Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature..." (Proposed names should be: 16 characters or less in length (including any spaces or punctuation); preferably one word; pronounceable (in some language); non-offensive; and not too similar to an existing name of a minor planet or natural planetary satellite.)
"Accepted names become official when they are published, along with their accompanying citations, in the Minor Planet Circulars, issued monthly by the Minor Planet Center (an official service of IAU Commission 20)."
Circular 8747 for Eris (and Pluto) is at [11]. Quote:
"...the Minor Planet Centre included Pluto and 2003 UB313 in the standard catalogue of numbered objects with well-determined orbits as (134340) and (136199) respectively. Following near-unanimous acceptance by both the Committee on Small-Body Nomenclature and the Working Group on Planetary-System Nomenclature (in consultation with the discovery team), the IAU Executive Committee has now approved the names Eris for (136199) and Dysnomia for its satellite (136199) Eris I."
The changes I made to the article were based on these (and similar) official sources. Can you make a similar claim? If so, what sources are they? I'll ask everyone else: After reading these sources and comparing the version of the article after my amendments with that after Adam Cuerden's later ones, which do you think is the more accurate summary? --Cuddlyopedia 06:15, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

I apologise - it would seem you were not wrong, merely interpreting differently. However, since the number and provisional designation are used together, as seen here, but I cannot find any example of the number being used seperately from the provisional designation, I'm inclined to think that the MPC is being somewhat unclear, which is the source of the problem.

It does simply the explanation to use provisional name, since it allows us to explain the (number) provisional name phase more simply. However, if it's inaccurate, it has to change. What do you think? Adam Cuerden talk 06:52, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

Apology (readily) accepted. I also apologise for any abruptness on my part. These 'debates' over semantics can get a little intense, can't they?! :)
I agree, the MPC (like the rest of the IAU) is unclear. Partly because they define 'designation', and then they (and everyone else in the astronomical community) use the terms 'designated' and 'named' loosely. So loosely, that forms such as (4) Vesta and 4 Vesta can easily come within the generic meaning and everyday use of the word 'name'. It's when it comes to terms such as 'official name' or 'officially designated' that I start to twitch, as 'officially' these terms are supposed to have a precise meaning. At the suggestion of GeorgeJBendo at Naming conventions (astronomical objects) (Talk), I have emailed the IAU asking for clarification, but am not hopeful of a response (the IAU public outreach is abysmal).
From what I've seen, the MPC is very careful to call "(1) Ceres" a designation. They are really very consistent about this. So the confusion stems from other astronomy publications, which we can safely ignore as non-authoritative in this matter. I don't see that there's any confusion as to what Wikipedia should call them. --Yath 20:10, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
I think here is the best place to set out what the IAU has to say, but point out the different usages in practice. I do think we should avoid "officially designated" and "officially named" when referring to the '(number) name' forms, as there is that ambiguity there. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a good synonym for 'designated', and trying not to use it makes things a bit clunky. Perhaps, if we get this article right (i.e. agreed!), we could use these forms in other articles, but include a warning of some kind as to the potential error and a link to this article?
--Cuddlyopedia 07:25, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
Amplifying the last para above, by warning (or note) I have in mind a tag that puts at the top of minor planet articles something like: The terms 'designated' and 'named', especially with 'official', in relation to minor planets are considered by some to be ambiguous, and therefore their precise use can be disputed. See Minor Planet designations and names.
As a tag, it could be added to all such articles by a bot (and just as easily removed if the IAU ever come down one way or another on this). In the meantime, writers and editors of articles can use the natural meanings of the words.
--Cuddlyopedia 11:30, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. Still, I think the terms I used - provisional name, number, and name, make this easiest to understand. A search for '"permanent designation" minor planet' gives 1580 hits, '"permanent designation" astronomy' leads to this page, which uses it in a completely different way. The terms don't seem to be used anywhere but the MPC's cackhanded attempt to explain itself. - thank god!
I agree with the difficulty in "official" where the MPC and IAU are so unclear - how about a phrasing along the lines of "Ceres, more exactly termed (1) Ceres or 1 Ceres" or "Ceres, formally named (1) Ceres or 1 Ceres" - Hmm. "formally named" or "formally designated" work for you? Adam Cuerden talk 12:02, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
"Ceres, more exactly termed (1) Ceres or 1 Ceres" or "Ceres, formally named (1) Ceres or 1 Ceres" - I disagree, as "term" and "name" are exactly what "(1) Ceres" is not, and this kind of phrasing confuses many Wikipedia editors, to say nothing of readers. --Yath 20:10, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

Major edit[edit]

I've made a major change of focus, and may have moved into controversial territory, though I hope the last line of the opening mitigates this somewhat. Can we discuss changes here, howeevr, as if we hedge too much we could end up getting really confusing quickly. Adam Cuerden talk 18:21, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Move to Minor planet "names"[edit]

This move might be a little controversial right now, what with the current discussions revolving around the relationship between MPC catalog numbers and "names". IMO it would have been better to discuss it first.

Anyway, one of the sentences in the intro:

They [names] consist, in their final form, of a number originally assigned in approximate order of discovery, now assigned only after the orbit is determined, coupled with a name, which may be provisional or assigned by its discoverer,[1] with the syntax (Number) Name, e.g. (1) Ceres or (134340) Pluto.

...very specifically identifies something like "(1) Ceres" as a name. But from my reading of the AU's FAQ on minor planet naming, they are very careful to call that a "designation". They seem averse to calling it a name. It would seem to be evidence that they do not consider such things names. If there are any publications that do call "(1) Ceres" a name, they should be linked in the article, since the article as it is currently written contains unverified claims. --Yath 19:39, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Point. The move was made because it was the only way to clarify the article (naming it number was leading to having to describe phases before a number was assigned after the number being assigned) Realise I've written this article from scratch in the last few days, and am trying to be comprehensive - the name is the last, formal stage of a process that begins with a provisional name (provisional designation?) - what's a good term that covers every stage of it? Adam Cuerden talk 20:27, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
The article seems to be about a process, correct? What about "Minor planet naming"? --Yath 20:41, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
That makes sense. Or possibly "Minor planet designations"? Adam Cuerden talk 20:59, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
How about Minor planet designations and names"? --Cuddlyopedia 05:20, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

Any consensus on which? Adam Cuerden talk 06:47, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

I prefer Minor planet designation. The IAU itself calls it that afterall. Of the fourth minor planet the name is Vesta, the designation (4) Vesta. An article called Minor planet name should be about the naming patterns for minor planets, such as the special rules that Trojans must be named after heroes from the Iliad with Greeks in one group and Trojans in the other, or that minor planets similar to (2060) Chiron must be named after Centaurs. Or possibly this should be in Minor planet nomenclature?
Either way the current article is about designations, and should be called that. -- Jordi· 07:56, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't think the article would be of much value if it were about the designation. I mean, one day the object was listed in a catalog and given a number. Big deal. The interesting subject is what sorts of things are acceptable for names, and who makes the rules, and who enforces them, and examples of objects that have undergone this process, etc. And then one day it got a number and a "designation" - that's suitable for a sentence or two somewhere. So the "Minor planet naming" appeals to me more. --Yath 20:12, 13 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, interests vary. Personally, I'm very numerically inclined and am actually more interested in the numbers than the names (although I don't doubt I'm in the minority). And, of course, most minor planets never get a name and only have a designation. Contrary to Jordi, I don't think that (4) Vesta is a designation. I think the designation of that object is (4). --Cuddlyopedia 09:15, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Collecting options[edit]

Here's the options so far, and a few minor variations. Might as well collect them all, give some time for other options to be added, and, as I don't think there's huge dislike for any of the options (save maybe Minor planet names), we'll probably come up with something acceptable to all. Adam Cuerden talk 12:14, 13 October 2006 (UTC) Options so far: (add more if you have any good ideas, and discuss below.

  • Minor planet names
  • Minor planet naming
  • Naming of minor planets
  • Naming minor planets
  • Minor planet designations
  • Minor planet designations and names
  • Minor planet nomenclature
  • Minor planet denomination

"Minor planet naming" seems a little awkward, so I provided alternative forms. "Minor planet designations and names" seems a little too long. "Minor planet names" may be inaccurate. All the rest seem fine. Still, don't want to be gaily transversing the name space with move after move, so best to discuss a bit. Any we can agree to remove? Adam Cuerden talk 12:14, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

Given the occasional dispute over what is or is not a designation or name, I suggest a title that incorporates both is preferable (and the article covers both). That leaves 6 and 7 or your initial list, and I've added an eighth (though I'm leaning towards Minor planet nomenclature). --Cuddlyopedia 09:25, 14 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm not entirely sure what Minor planet denomination means. Adam Cuerden talk 12:34, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

If noone feels strongly either way, I'm choosing "Minor planet nomenclature". I'll give this a week to see if any objections come up. Adam Cuerden talk 17:52, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

names vs. designations[edit]

From what I understand, Vesta is the "name", and (4) Vesta is the "designation". If so, could s.o. correct the article accordingly? We have people saying e.g. the Haumea article can't say "Haumea, formally (136108) Haumea", because the latter is not the name, but the link here does not support that. kwami (talk) 02:36, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Okay, I've done it, and moved the article accordingly. kwami (talk) 20:53, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Interlanguage links[edit]

Can someone who understand Slovak and Czech confirm that cs:Označení planetek and sk:Označenie planétok are about the same topic? Then add them to interlanguage links of this article. Thanks! Damouns (talk) 16:01, 9 November 2011 (UTC)


I've been using {{DEFAULTSORT:}} to alphabetize dwarf planets and other minor planets by their given name (if they have one), rather than by their minor planet number (MPN); because minor planets, at least the better known ones, are usually called by their given name only, e.g. “Vesta” rather than “4 Vesta”. Thus, {{DEFAULTSORT:Sedna}} or {{DEFAULTSORT:Salacia}} (see Sedna, Salacia). (Obviously, the articles “Ceres (dwarf planet)”, “Eris (dwarf planet)”, or “Pluto”, because of the article title, need no DEFAULTSORT.) Also, the given name can begin with any of 26 characters (discounting accented vowels, etc.), whereas the MPN can only begin with one of 10 characters (assuming MPN < 100,000 means that the first character is 0). Thus, alphabetizing by given name results in more possible initial characters, preventing clutter in the alphabetic lists. Okay?--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 23:42, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

What's the TX 300 thingie[edit]

The article mentions TX 300, complete with the awkward subscript -- but what's it mean, where'd it come from? 300th object in 2002?Feldercarb (talk) 16:31, 11 August 2016 (UTC)