There are some trends to naming celestial objects:

  • Planets and moons in the solar system may be named after ancient Greek and Roman gods
  • Comets may be named after their discoverer
  • Asteroids may be named after humans.

I'm curious about the last one, especially since so many famous people have had asteroids named after them (try to find all the Monty Python members here!). When did this trend start? If it can be found out, who was the first person to have an asteroid named after them?

The following pages may be relevant: an IAU page and a Minor Planet Center page


The asteroid 20 Massalia was the first asteroid to not be assigned its own astrological symbol, and was also the first object in the solar system to be given a non-mythological name. It's named after Marseilles, the hometown of the discoverers.

It appears that the first person to have an asteroid named after them was Empress Eugenia di Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III. The asteroid, 45 Eugenia, was discovered in 1857 and subsequently named by the astronomer Hermann Goldschmidt.

  • $\begingroup$ I apologize for not accepting this sooner (it's a great answer!); I just wanted to see what else would come along. Accepting an answer early often discourages other ones, so I just wanted to see what else would happen. Awesome answer, thank you. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 10 '14 at 22:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.