Sunday, March 10, 2019

Naming Conventions for Stars, Planets, and Moons

As you all know, I have been working on automating Jon Zeigler's Architect of Worlds system, and I've come to realize recently that I need a nice, coherent naming convention for stars, planets, and moons.

As far as I am aware, the current convention is that individual stars get names A, B, C, etc. in order of mass from most massive to least massive, and planets append a lower-case letter on that based on the size of their obit, from innermost to outermost. In this convention, Earth would be designated Sol c. The second planet around the second most massive star in a binary would be [StarName] B b. I am not aware of any standing convention for naming moons around exoplanets.

I have a couple of issues with this convention. Firstly, it lacks a means by which to address moons. I need that because I will be generating moons. Furthermore, I dislike that both the star and planet are designated by letters. This just sounds weird when said aloud. It will also invariably become the butt of jokes at some point - there are just too many combinations that will elicit a giggles (Planet B-j?). So let's take a look at some alternatives.

Immediately, alternating between letters and numbers for unnamed planets comes to mind. So the third planet around the second star would either be 2-C or B-3. I kind of like keeping the stars designated by letter, so I'm going to opt for the second in this case. Also, that number might be designated by Roman numeral or by Arabic numeral. Using the previous example, we get either B-3 or B-III. Again, I like the latter - mostly because it looks cool.

So now I have a way to deal with stars and planets, but what about moons? Again, we want to avoid repeating what just preceded it because that looks weird and sounds weirder. So the current form is <letter>-<number>. This suggests the next should be a letter. Let's consider that moons are small, so let's make this a lower case letter. Taking the first moon about B-III, we get B-III-a. This is easy to read but in text, it's a little aesthetically lacking. So let's drop that last hyphen. Now we have B-IIIa. That looks good to me.

That covers moons around planets around single stars, but what about planets that orbit entire binaries...or trinaries...or quaternaries? I suggest the letter grouping for the cluster being orbited be used in the first spot. So a planet orbiting a binary would start with 'AB', and one orbiting the second binary in a quaternary would be 'CD'. If a planet orbits an entire trinary, it'd start with 'ABC'.

With this, we can describe any planet, moon, or star in a star system, and at a glance, know the basic nature of its orbit. I think that's a good start for now.

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