Extending the System of Lunar Nomenclature

by Peter Kokh
Previously printed in Selenology, Vol. 8, No. 2, August 1989)
Republished as LRS Paper 2009

I. Central Peaks 2. Unnamed Classes of Geological Features
3. Nameless Lesser Mare-filled Units 4. Highland areas or Terrae


The present list of namers of Lunar Features, especially with its recent Apollo era expansion, would seem to be quite adequate for our needs. This is certainly the case if the present status quo - no human presence on the Moon - is prolonged indefinitely. However, budgetary pressures notwithstanding, the day will at last come when humans return to the Moon, at first for prolonged stays, and then permanently.

We will return to the Moon to do science about the Moon itself, to use its surface as the  platform for advanced astronomy, and to begin to integrate its considerable resources into a greater Earth-Moon economy. These resources include liquid oxygen (rocket fuel) to bootstrap further space activities e.g. an extended opening to Mars, building products for space construction projects made from lunar alloys and glass-glass composites, and ultra clean radiation-free Helium-3 fuel for future fusion plants on Earth, and for uses unforeseen.

As humans return to the Moon and an initial token presence slowly spreads over the lunar globe, the current list of names which concentrates on the larger features visible to distant observers on Earth, will be quite inadequate. With occupation, name density will increase dramatically. It will be convenient to name many lesser, but locally prominent, features now left nameless.

On Earth, place names have many types of origin. One can ask if a place already has a name, misunderstand the answer, and carve it in concrete (e.g. Dontinxo, actually a mispronunciation of "I don't thinks so!" as an answer to that question.)

Starting from scratch, once can borrow the name of a prominent nearby feature and add "City, -polis, -grad, -ville, - bad, -ton etc.; or -ford, -bridge, Falls, Heights, Flats, Bend etc. Perhaps a nearby feature has a very visual aspect: Bratwurst Rock, Broken Ridge, etc. If nothing of the sort suggests itself, laces left behind are a common resort: New Chicago, Paris-Luna, etc.

Sweethearts of expedition leaders (who haven't picked their own name first) are as good a source as say, as are mythical place names like Brigadoon and Erehwon. And surely there will be such pure whimsies as Here, Whereinhell, Asgoodasany, Angel's Dread, Breakdown's Choice, Cavourite Landing, etc.

Now we have no problem with letting such varied and colorful forces work to supply place names as needed on the Moon, though we might hope that seriousness prevails i christening the first nd major settlements.

However, it seems to us that there are a large number of intermediate features yet unnamed that are prominent enough to be named beforehand while it is till possible to do so in a manner that compliments the dignity and integrity of the  present lunar gazetteer.

In general, two broad categories of unnamed lunar places deserve our attention: central peaks of named craters, and lesser mare-filed units.

Part I: Central Peaks

Of course, we can simply use Mount Copernicus, Tsiolkovsky Massif, Tycho Peak, etc. This is indeed the assured default if we do not intentionally take other action with regards to this opportunity.

But as long as we are commemorating many famous philosophers, astronomers, and scientists, why not do this intention greater justice by pairing first and last names. Then we'd have Mt. Nicholas in Copernicus, Mt. Konstantin in Tsiolkovsky, and Mt. Brahe in Tycho, etc.

Such a system would supply names for the central peaks of the great majority of named craters so endowed. A partial list of Crater/Central Peak pairs is given in Box A.

Some craters with central peaks are named after ancients with no recorded other name. Some of these could be given the name of the city associated with the fabled honoree, e.g. Mt Samos in Aristarchus. Others in the same mold are given in Box B.

Only a handful of central peaks would be left after applying these two paradigms. Theophilus is a case in point where the meaning of the name (he who loves God) and the appearance of the central appearance itself, might suggest a fitting choice, Trinity Peaks. Mt Al battani would do for the rater with the Latinized form of the same name: Albagentius.

A committee could surely come up with some appropriate names for the few central peaks remaining. Certainly, given available suitable choices, we should not leave the naming of these major highly identifiable features to pioneer wit and whim.

Naming crater central peaks by this system has the considerable added benefit of teaching bit of history to Lunan school children, and of making the name easy to guess for those already up on their history.

Box A: Some Named Nearside Craters with Central Peaks
Alphonso > El Sabio
Arzachel > Mt. Al Zarqali
Auzot > Mt. Adrien
Bacon > Mt. Roger
Ball > Mt. William
Berzelius > Mt. Jons
Bettinus > Mt. Mario
Bianchini > Mt. Francesco
Biela > Mt. Wilhelm
Borda > Mt. Jean
Brayley > Mt. Edward
Briggs > Mt. Henry
Bullialdus > Mt. Ismael
Burg > Mt. Johann
Campanus > Mt. Giovanni
Capella > Mt. Martianus
Cardanus > Mt. Girolamo
Carpenter > Mt. James
Copernicus > Mt. Nicholas
Crozier > Mt. Francis
Cuvier > Mt. George
Cyrillus > Mt. Constantine
DaL'isle > Mt. Joseph
Dopplemayer > Mt. Johann
Einstein > Mt. Albert
Euler > Mt. Leonhard
Fabricius > Mt. Goldschmidt
Gaus > Mt. Karl
Fontana > Mt. Franceso
Gassendi > Mt. Pierre
Goclenius > Mt.  Rudolf
Godin > Mt. Lewis
Goodacre > Mt. Walter
Hahn > Mt. Friederich Graf
Hell > Mt. Maximilian
Herigonius > Mt. Pierre
Herschell > Mt. Friedrich
Hevel > Mt. Johannes
Inghirami > Mt. Giovanni
Kant > Mt. Immanuel
Klein > Mt. Hermann
Kunowski > Mt. George
Lacroix > Mt. Sylvestre
Lalande > Mt. Joseph
Landsberg > Mt. Philip van
Langrenus > Mt. Michael
Legendgre > Mt. Adrien
Letronne > Jean
Lexell > Mt. Anders
Licetus > Mt. Fortunio
Lilius > Mt. Luigi
Lohrmann > Wilhelm
Lohse > Mt. Oswald
Macrobius > Mt. Ambrosius
Manilus > Mt. Gaius
Marius > Simon
Marth > Mt. Albert
Maskelyne > Mt. Nevil
Maurolycus > Mt. Francesco
Mayer > Mt. Tobias
Moretus > Mt. Theodore
Neander > Mt. Michael
Naper > Mt. John
Pallus > Mt. Peter
Pentland > Mt. Joseph
Petavius > Mt. Dennis
Phillips > Mt. John
Picard > Mt. Auguste
Piccolomini > Mt. Alessandro
Pitatus > Mt. Pietro
Piana > Mt. Giovanni
Pontecoulant > Mt. Philip
Porter > Russell
Purbach > George von
Regiomontanus > Mt. Muller
Reiner > Mt. Vincentino
Romer > Mt. Ole
Rosenburger > Mt. Otto
Ross > Mt. Frank
Rutherford > Mt. Lewis
Sabine > Mt. Edward
Scoresby > Mt. William
Secchi > Mt. Angello
Sharp > Mt. Abraham
Snellius > Mt. Willebrod
Stevinus > Mt. Simon
Taruntius > Mt. Lucius
Tycho > Mt. Brahe
Vieta > Mt. Fran\E7ois
Vlacq > Mt. Adrian
Webb > Mt. Thomas
Werner > Mt. Johann
Wrottesley > Mt. John
Some Named Farside Craters with Central Peaks
Aitken > Mt. Robert
Avogadro > Mt. Amadeo
Bose > Mt. Jogadis
Cabannes > Mt. Jean
Compton > Mt. Arthur
Cyrano > Mt. deBergerac
Debye > Mt. Peter
Dryden > Mt. Hugh
Fabry > Mt. Charles
Jackson > Mt. John
Jenner > Mt. Edward
Keeler > Mt. James
Kovalevskaya > Mt. Sofya
Lebedinski > Mt. Alexander
Lowell > Mt. Percival
Lyman > Mt. Theodore
Mach > Mt. Ernst
Pauli > Mt. Wolfgang
Plaskett > Mt. John
Poynting > Mt. John
Robertson > Mt. Howard
Roche > Mt. Edward
Sarton > Mt. George
Sierpiski > Mt. Waclaw
Sklodowska > Mt. Marie
Sommerfield > Mt. Arnold
Stebbins > Mt. Joel
Tsiolkovsky > Mt. Konstantin
Van der Waals > Mt. Johannes
Vestine > Mt. Ernst
Vernadsky > Mt. Vladimir
Zhukovsky > Mt. Nicholai
Box B: Some Central Peaks named after city associated with name
Anaxagorus > Mt. Klazomene
Hekataeus > Mt. Miletus
Marinius > Mt. Tyre
Plutarch > Mt. Chaeronea
Proclus > Mt. Xantheus
Pythagorus > Mt. Samos
Seleucus > Mt. Babylon
Xenophanes > Mt. Kolophon
Cyrillius > Mt. Moravia

Part 2. Unnamed Classes of Geological Features

Saxum,  pl. Saxa - Reefs

Some types of features are special enough and common enough to deserve Latin Class Names. In many maria, there are instances of incomplete crater wall fragments sticking out above th lava plains like so many Antarctic or Greenland nunatuks above the ice sheet. These are exposed rims of craters formed after the impact basin in which they are found, but before the episode of lava sheet flooding. To the pioneer on the surface (as opposed to Earthside observers from far above) it will hardly seem appropriate to call these wall fragments "craters" whatever their origin. We suggest instead that we begin referring to them by the Latin name for reef: Saxum,  pl. Saxa. "Saxa Flamsteed in Oceanus Proecellarum (Ocean of Storms) would be an example. Saxa Neptune, and/or Tridentina to the west of crater Poseidon would be another.

Vadum -  Shallows or Shoals

Sometimes, such ghost and fragment craters abound in maria where lava sheet flooding has been on the thin side, only partially drowning pre-existing craters on the impact basin floor. This is pertinent information for travelers who will find crossing the mare more difficult and slow going through these areas. Mare Smythii and Mare Australe are examples. Groupings or "archepelagos" of such ghost craters and saxa (reefs) could be referred to by the Latin word Vadum for "shallows" or "shoals" and given convenient group names such as Vadum Centrale ("Central Shoals" or "Central Shallows.")

Lacuna, Lacunae - Hidden Pools (crater wall-contained lava)

Some intact craters in or near maria have also been flooded with lava, from below rather than through breached walls.
PlatoArchimedes, Cruger, and Billy are prime examples. While the term Walled Plain breaks the Latin generic pattern, it might be appropriate for a giant crater like Bailey with an original flat floor, but it hardly does justice to Plato and similar craters. We suggest the Latin name Lacuna, "hidden pool," for these when we are referring to their subsequent basalt ponding, e.g. Lacuna Plato. We would still speak of the Crater Plato when referring to the feature identified  by its exposed walls.

[The following two classes we added after the publication of the original paper in Selenology, August 1989]

Fretum, Freta - Straight

From the point of view of explorers and travelers on the Moon, a gap in an otherwise impassable impact basin mountain ring, such as that between the Appenines to the south and the Caucasus Mts. to the north, both chains separating Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains, from Mare Serenitatis, the Sea of Serenity, East of Autolycus at 30 \B0N longitude deserves a class name. Taking a cue from the two mountain chains to that frame the straight, how about Fretum Caucapen [map], the Caucapen Straight?

There are perhaps a half dozen somewhat constricted "straights" interconnecting the various maria or seas in the lunar nearside "mareplex."

Pons, Pontes - Bridge

The features that suggest addition of this class name are the "interruptions" in Hyginus Rille in Mare Vaporum, Sea of Vapors. The rille is generally thought to be a collapsed lava tube feature. If that is correct, then the interruptions are most certainly remaining uncollapsed sections of the original tube. Pons (Bridge) is a fitting class name for these features

Part 3. Nameless Lesser Mare-filled units

(Note: This was written in 1989. Since that time, some smaller lave plain units have indeed been named.)

The problem with the present Moon Map is that it provides names for only the very largest features. Some quite distinct mare-filled  units, both contiguous and separate, have been left nameless. This may not be a problem for Earthbound observers. But you can be sure that lunar pioneers will need names for these features as a matter of convenience, if not necessity. If we want such areas given names harmonious with those already listed, we had better complete the task now.

Mare Crisium - Sea of Crises - See photo map

A face on view such as taken by the returning Apollo 8 crew, shows this sea to have a clearly circular form, but with an eastern lobe giving it an overall egg shape.  This lobe might well be given the name [1] Sinus Constantiae (Bay of Constancy.) The near shore area west of Promontorium Lavinium and the crater Yerkes might be called [2] Fretum Hodiernum (Today Straight.)
Neighboring unnamed mare-filled lakes to the northwest could be named [3] Lacus Parationis (Lake of Readiness) and, further west, [4] Lacus Vigilitatis (Lake of Watchfulness.) Two unnamed lakes between Mare Crisium and Mare Marginis could be named [5] Lacus Hortationis (Lake of Encouragement) and [6] Lacus Spei (Lake of Hope.) As you can see, these names have been chosen to suggest associations with "crises."

Mare Fecunditatis - Sea of Fertility - see photo map

The long southern arm of this irregular sea, below about 12\B0 S, deserves its own associated name. This feature might aptly be names Sinus Cornucopiae (Bay of the Horn of Plenty.)

Mare Nectaris - Sea of Honey - see photo map

The large unnamed bay south of the main body of Mare Tranquilitatis and northeast of the main body of Mare Nectaris could be named Sinus Ambrosiae (Bay of Ambrosia) with the Fretum Mellis (Straight of Honey) in between (craters Madler/Isidorus area.)

Mare Serenitatis - Sea of Serenity - see photo map

An unnamed lake to the north of the Caucasus Mountains and the mare could be named Lacus Pacis (Lake of Peace.)

Oceanus Procellarum - Ocean of Storms - see photo map

Two unnamed southwestern bays could be named [1] Sinus Tonitrum (Bay of Thunder, northwest of Hansteen and [2] Sinus Fulminium (Bay of Lightning, east of Hansteen, northeast of Billy.)

Other areas

To be sure, the above identifiable areas in need of their own names, are just a fraction of such areas in the nearside mare complex. There are other lesser lakes, bays, and straights worthy of Latin names that are in tune with the names of surrounding features, both nearside and farside. IN anticipation of permanent human presence, the task of naming such features should be completed.

Part 4. Highland Areas: The "Terrae" - "Lands" see photo map

Originally, various highland areas were given Latin names as well. On the nearside, there are several highland areas bounded by mare areas. But the given names such as [1] Terra Sicitatis (Land of Thirst) and [2] Terra Grandinis (Land of Frost) have long been in disuse. Perhaps the one name worth resurrecting is the later, referring to the highlands area south of Sinus Roris and Mare Frigoris and north of Mare Imbrium and Mare Serenitatis.

The much larger highland area bounded by Imbrium-Procellarum on the west and Serenitatis-Tranquilitatis- Fecunditatis and Nectaris on the east but with no determinate boundary on the south, [3] probably deserves a name, as does the strip [4] between Mare Nectaris and Mare Fecunditatis, and the wide area [5] between Mare Serenitatis and Mare Crisium.

Along the east limb, the highlands area between Crisium and Fecunditatis on the west and Marginis and Smythii on the east may deserve a name. On the west limb, the lands between Oceanus Procellarum and Mare Orientalis are identifiable.

Beyond that, all highland areas seem to merge into one another. How they will be named and defined is for the future pioneer to decide, hopefully not by land disputes!

Ora, Orae - Coast

This may be a more useful term than Terra, as economically and industrially, the highland-mare coast areas have the advantage of access to both suites of materials in less-intermixed element proportions. Where the "coast" ends and the "hinterland" begins may shift over time. Stretches of Coast will be given names, but where one Coastal stretch begins and contiguous one begins will largely be a matter of historical and political decisions. Settlements along the coasts, are more likely than either deep inside mare areas or within hinterland highland areas. Of course, as highways through the maria will be easier to build than through the highlands, there will be road junctions that become center of population. But then there will be junction settlements along cross-highlands areas as well.

A Moon in the process of being settled will, like other frontiers, become ever more dense with place names (Wyoming, Chicago) and vague regional names (the Midwest, the East Coast.) That will be up to the pioneers.

Our purpose is just to create a more complete pre-settlement system of feature names by extending the historical system long in use in a logical manner.