The completely serious online movement to name the moon

'The moon' isn't good enough, apparently.


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Published Jan 29, 2016   Updated May 27, 2021, 7:23 am CDT

For better or for worse, the moon is something we earthlings take for granted. It’ll always be there, waxing, waning, and occasionally changing color (until we blow it up, of course).  

But isn’t it time we showed some appreciation for our planet’s lonely natural satellite? The leaders of a new grassroots Internet movement certainly think so. Their plan is simple: Name the Moon.

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The centerpiece of this effort is a petition directed at the International Astronomical Union, a nearly century-old body that has standardized the spelling and abbreviations of familiar constellations and celestial bodies. Originally, Name the Moon was charging $1 to sign this e-petition and suggest a name for the moon as part of a “contest,” with a portion of this money donated to the charities Ryan’s Well Foundation and After an outpouring of interest from children, though, the organizers decided to waive the fee and welcome all support.   

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Sure, it’s tempting to write off this Utah-based group as a bunch of loonies—and, as it happens, that’s basically the characterization they’ve chosen for themselves.

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But at the bottom of it all, this is a completely earnest, as the Daily Dot discovered in emailed comments from Name the Moon spokeswoman Tawni Henderson, relayed via Caitlin Wall, Name the Moon’s public relations director.

How did this group come to be organized?

One night some of us were gathered together admiring our beautiful moon. We were talking about how other planets’ moons are named and ours doesn’t have a name—it’s named after its classification. That sparked the idea of trying to name the moon, and we decided that a Name the Moon campaign would be a great way to inspire people’s interest in the solar system while raising money for charity.

Is there some consensus that the name ‘the moon’ is incorrect or inadequate?

According a Name the Moon blog post, “When Galileo Galilei discovered four objects orbiting Jupiter in 1610, he called them moons and gave them names—Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Calisto. Since then, the other moons discovered throughout our solar system have been given unique names, making ‘moon’ a classification for objects that orbit around a planet. Essentially our moon is the only moon in the solar system without a unique name.” It’s like naming your dog “The Dog.”

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How does the group feel about other celestial bodies’ names?

We generally agree with the naming of most of the other celestial bodies. Some might say that the sun is also without a name.  However, if that were true, we’d be calling it “The Star” because that is the sun’s classification.

Is there reason to believe the International Astronomical Union doesn’t have your (or the layperson’s) interests at heart?

When it comes to naming celestial objects, the IAU’s charter says that recommendations should have “a broad consensus in the community concerned.” We understand that the community for renaming our moon needs to be worldwide, and hope to prove to the IAU that people worldwide want to give the moon a unique name.

What results can we hope for by changing the moon’s name?

This is a potentially historic movement that we hope people get involved in. Ultimately, the best results of giving the moon a name would be to spark the imaginations of our next generation of space enthusiasts.

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When framed Henderson’s way, naming the moon seems less like lunacy and more like a noble duty too long ignored. Humans name everything—why exclude the moon?

It’s undoubtedly an uphill battle, however. Name the Moon’s e-petition has received some 2,100 signatures, which hardly represents global unity on the matter, while their Facebook page has only 123 likes. Further complicating the movement is the IAU’s evident disinterest; the esteemed collective did not return a request for comment about the moon’s name, nor is it clear whether they could be swayed—even by literally millions of requests—to change it.

But hey: What would life be without the occasional moonshot?

H/T Death & Taxes | Photo via (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jan 29, 2016, 11:00 am CST