How do new elements get named?

It is highly unusual for words to become the subject of avid discussion—and even of consideration by lexicographers—before they have even been coined! This is the curious situation at present in the world of science, where the announcement of four new chemical elements has created something of a stir. They can now take a permanent place in the Periodic Table of Elements, and for that they will need officially approved names. These names will have the rare distinction of being eligible for the Dictionary’s candidate list as soon as they are published. But how are their names chosen, and who makes the decision?

Read more: Oxford Dictionaries

Pluto, we have a problem: Some geographical names may not fly on official maps

Some of the best-known names on Pluto — ranging from the Sputnik plains to the Hillary and Norgay mountains and the dark Cthulhu Regio — may never appear on the International Astronomical Union’s maps, due to a tiff over terminology.

Those are just a few of the informal names that have raised questions from members of the IAU panel charged with approving the nomenclature for the dwarf planet’s geographical features. The names were selected by the team behind NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto after a months-long online naming campaign at

“Frankly, we would have preferred that the New Horizons team had approached us before putting all these informal names everywhere,” said Rosaly Lopes, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is a member of the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.

Read more: GeekWire

The Names of These Planets Will Be Decided by the Internet

When mankind first started discovering planets beyond our own, we named them for fantastic gods and goddesses. Since then, we’ve found a whole lot more planets outside our solar system—at least a thousand of them—and we’ve grown a little lazy in the naming department. Titles like HD 209458 b are obviously chosen more for practical reasons than romantic ones, but that’s something the International Astronomical Union hopes to change.

In order to tackle the long list of exoplanets in need of new names, the IAU has decided to enlist the help of the internet. The NameExoWorlds competition, which opened last Tuesday and will run until the end of October, calls for anyone with access to the internet to vote on the names for 32 of the extrasolar planets discovered in the last 25 years.

Read more: Mental Floss