A review of diversity in space science nomenclature: Issues of Power

Lennox, Annie (2023). A review of diversity in space science nomenclature: Issues of Power. Postgraduate Research Poster Competition, The Open University.


The current naming conventions for astronomical discoveries exacerbate the underrepresentation of marginalized groups in space science. As space science develops at a rapid pace, new discoveries of objects or surface features are continually being made and such discoveries need naming. Conventions, as established by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), dictate what landscape features on planets and satellites can be named and the ‘themes’ from
which names can be drawn.

Ideally, space science nomenclature should reflect a diverse array of people (with representation of different genders, cultures, and races, to name a few) and places. However, it appears that this expectation is not a reality; I have found that on Mercury just 11.8% of craters are named after a woman and for both Mars and the Moon only 2 % of craters named after a person commemorate women. This is, however, not just an issue of gender, and it is apparent that many forms of diversity are lacking in space science nomenclature. These statistics on representation within the nomenclature have not been investigated
and are not publicly available.

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