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FromQuarkstoQuasars

What’s The Moon’s “Real” Name?

Think you know the answer?

Jolene CreightonSeptember 13th 2014

A Name Like No Other

Recently, we asked our followers on social media what they thought our moon’s real name was. By a decisive majority, “Luna” was the winning guess. However, sadly, this answer isn’t the correct one. Just as “Terra” is not the correct name for the Earth and “Sol” is not the correct name for our star, “Luna” isn’t the real name of our moon. These terms are simply the Latin for Earth, Sun, and Moon.

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A notable number of people also thought our moon didn’t have a name, but this also isn’t the case. Some people brought up the point about languages, which could change the Moon’s “real name” in a culture. However, “Moon” is the name that’s been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is the internationally recognized body for naming anything outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

This is why, in most scientific writings, the name that scientists use to discuss our natural satellite is, you guessed in, the “Moon.”

Moving Beyond

The same methodology applies to Earth (the official name being the Earth) and the Sun (with an official name of the Sun). That said, may writers will use terms like “Gaia” or “Luna” in order to be poetic, but the words are simply rhetorical, and not factual, in nature. They just help add some color to the text and allow writers to avoid tedious repetition. After all, if you’re reading some article and every other sentence uses the phrase “the Moon,” it gets a little old and boring.

As an interesting side note, the Milky Way is technically an improper name for our galaxy. Our galaxy is simply called “the Galaxy” as proclaimed by the IAU. In technical writings, the Milky Way is most commonly referred to as “the Galaxy,” but it is not unheard of to see it referred to as the Milky Way in a large body of scientific work.

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