With all the celebrations over man’s achievement walking on the moon 50 years ago, a thought crossed my mind. Everything in our known cosmic universe not only has an identification (like planet, star or comet), it also has a unique name (like Mars, Beetlejuice and Haley). Why doesn’t our moon have a name?
Jupiter was named after Roman god Zeus, and many of its moons are named after his sexual conquests like Lo, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Roxanne (just kidding, Roxanne). Mars, named after another Roman god, Ares the God of War, has two moons named after his sons: Deimos and Phobos.
Pluto’s moons have the most thought-provoking names. The now identified “dwarf planet” itself, contrary to popular belief, is not named for the Disney character. Pluto was the god of the underworld in Greek mythology, sort of like our devil. Its moons are similarly named.
The largest, Charon, was the captain of the ferry that takes departed souls across the river Styx to Hades. Three other smaller moons are named Styx, Nix (the Greek Goddess of Darkness) and Hydra, the many-headed serpent that supposedly fought Hercules.
So why is ours just called “The Moon?”
In 1610, for the first time, Galileo found that other planets also had moons, so they were given unique names to avoid confusion. Then, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), formed in 1919, was tasked with naming every celestial body in the solar system. They decided to keep ours as “moon” simply because it was the first.
Just an FYI—the IAU is the only recognized organization on the planet authorized to rightly name a celestial body in the night sky. Although ponying up a few shekels to name a “star” after your sweetheart or children is a cool idea, it’s in name only and not official. Those online websites just take your money and provide an official-looking certificate. You could accomplish the same thing (and save money) by creating a “certificate” yourself with Photoshop.
There are 10 billion galaxies in the observable universe and about 100 billion stars in each one. To put that in perspective, there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on Earth. So, go ahead and pick one for your sweetheart, who’s going to know? After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?
In this era of arenas and stadiums selling naming rights, why hasn’t the United States considered partnering with a major corporation, like Verizon or IBM, to sell the naming rights to the moon? After all, we were the first country to go there. We even planted a flag.
Unfortunately, people are creatures of habit and “naming” the moon will never catch on. Somehow, “by the light of the silvery Verizon” just doesn’t feel romantic. Here on Long Island, we still call the “NYCB Theatre at Westbury” by its most popular name “Westbury Music Fair” and, no matter who owns the naming rights to the venue in Uniondale, it will always be the Nassau Coliseum.
Even if we did decide to give it a name, we haven’t been a country long enough to develop any mythological hero with a groovy name. What are we going to use, the names of our founding fathers? We already have Mount Rushmore for that. Besides, the Greeks and Romans took up all the cool names.
No, maybe we should just keep things the way they are. Even after 12 men were able to walk on its surface, we still don’t know much about it. The moon has always been a source of mystery and romance. In all known history, even when man created mythological figures to explain what they had no answers for, our moon was always just, “the moon.”
And maybe that’s the way we like it.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.