Open Letter to the IAU: Issues of Power and Its Influence on Naming Conventions for Planetary Features

An open letter addressed to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) was released written by Open University (OU) PhD student Annie Lennox. The letter demonstrates the underrepresentation of women in space science nomenclature and explains how naming conventions contribute to a lack of diversity across the solar system. Annie found that only 12% of craters on Mercury are named after women, and for craters named after people on Mars and the Moon. only 2% commemorate a woman. The conventions, which consistently require an individual to have achieved demonstrable fame before being accepted, inherently disadvantage women and other marginalized groups as historical injustices denied them the levels of fame or recognition achievable by men. The current conventions go with the grain of these historical injustices, rather than try to repair them. To read and sign your support, visit

Following on from this work, the OU and Women’s Physics Network at the University of Southampton are planning a hackathon happening on the weekend of October 22-23. This isn’t just a gender issue, and statistics on racial, ethnic, cultural representation should also be publicly available. We want to investigate the demographics of (almost) all the named features in the solar system, and examine them on the basis of gender, nationality, sexuality, and ethnicity, for example to see how diverse the solar system is. We are aiming to bring these results to the IAU, revealing who is represented, who is underrepresented, and who is missing in space science. But, due to immense number of named features in the solar system, we need a lot of people doing data entry and lend some humanpower. Attendance is virtual or in person across various universities in the UK. To register your interest, email [email protected].