It seems like so many places on the Earth, the Moon, the other planets and their moons, etc., are named after scientists, astronauts, Greek gods and the like.
Won’t the international organisation that does all the naming eventually have to start officially naming things (craters, asteroids, etc.) after ordinary people? They’ve got to start running out of scientists names sooner or later.
Until they start doing so, such moneymaking schemes like the “International Star Registry” will continue to sell their swampland in the sky to unwary people who’ll think they’ve actually got something, “somewhere in the cosmos” named after them.
I don’t think they will ever run out of names. Every country on the planet has thousands of “influential/important” people in their history. When they run out the list from Ecuador, they just switch to the one for Belize. Besides, don’t they call things by numbers these days?
They’ve gone well beyond the Roman pantheon, and have been naming features after members Nordic, Babylonian, Egyptian, Mayan, and other pantheons for some time now. I suspect that the names of minor deities in all the world’s religions are nearly inexhaustable.
The latest planet/planetoid/floating rock thingie found is informally named Sedna after the Inuit goddess of the oceans. The name has to eventually pass through the approval process of whoever it is that names these things but I haven’t heard anyone speculating that it won’t.
So, as Colibri said, we’ll just use other mythos and cultural stories for our naming. I kind of like the idea.
Sedna was several floating rock thingies ago, and I’m pretty sure that it’s now fully official. The current crop of as-yet unnamed objects includes one that’s bigger than Pluto, and which is informally referred to as Xena, until the offical name is approved. Which had better be soon, if the IAU has any hope of the official name replacing Xena in popular usage.
But significant names are only given to significant objects. For just yet another minor asteroid, the name might just be the discoverer’s girlfriend, or the like. And comets don’t even get fancy names at all: They’re just named after the discoverer, and if the same guy (or guys) discovers multiple comets, they just get a number (hence, for instance, Comet Shumacher-Levy 9: The ninth comet discovered by Shumacher and Levy).
Most of the moons of Uranus are named after characters from Shakespeare, so if the concept were expanded beyond that planet and author, we might eventually have a planet or asteroid named “Elizabeth Bennett” or “Leopold Bloom”.
Well, I assume that “floaty” was meant to imply “in orbit”, but Sedna (like most objects way out there) is believed to be mostly ice, so it probably would float in a sufficiently large pool of water, too. But can we use Burt Rutan’s pool instead? I like him a lot better than Bill Gates.
I was just being a smartass in pointing out that stuff doesn’t float in space, strictly speaking. And if Burt Rutan’s pool is big enough, that’s cool, I just thought Ol’ Bill’s pool would probably be the only one of sufficient size.
The organization that officially names stuff in the sky is the International Astronomical Union, and the Solar System is handled by their Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature.
Check out the Planetary Gazetter for names of moons, rings, and geological features, and for the categories of names used for different objects. Geological features on Mimas, for example, are named after people and places in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, and craters on Mercury are named for artists, authors, poets, and the like.