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According to a recent study, the criteria for naming surface landmarks on planets is not comprehensive and favors male names. An academic argues that this is evidenced by the fact that less than 2% of Mars’s craters are named after women.
A review of the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) records has uncovered that a mere 32 (2%) of the 1,578 identified Moon craters are named after women.
Features of a planet refer to unique attributes or components found either on the planet’s surface or inside it.
In addition to craters, they also feature mountains, valleys, canyons, volcanoes, oceans, deserts, and numerous other features.
Annie Lennox, a researcher at The Open University, expressed her concerns about the male-dominated practice of naming planetary features in a letter published in Nature Astronomy. She argues that this tradition puts women and marginalized groups at a disadvantage.
She is calling on the IAU, a global organization for professional astronomers, to revise its policies that favor cisgender white men.
Ms Lennox, from Aberdeenshire, said: “Space exploration has revealed worlds of rock, of ice and… metal.
It is a common practice to assign names to notable surface structures, such as craters, on all the planets in our solar system.
“Distant craters on the Moon, Mars and Mercury record a history much closer to home: celebrating the achievements of mankind, and to a much lesser extent womankind.”
In 1635, Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli began the practice of naming lunar craters after renowned scientists. This tradition continues to be upheld by the IAU, according to Ms. Lennox.
Although the IAU does not directly assign names, it does facilitate the creation of committees or teams to suggest and authorize names for particular characteristics according to specific criteria – typically paying tribute to notable individuals, mythology, or cultural elements.
Ms. Lennox stated that the guidelines of IAU have an influence on the diversity and inclusivity within the scientific communities who ultimately make decisions on naming.
According to the IAU, surface features are named based on established conventions.
Unfortunately, certain aspects of the existing standards perpetuate past inequalities and hinder the representation of diverse perspectives in the terminology.
“This serves as an illustration of the ways in which women and marginalized groups are systematically underrepresented and undervalued within current scientific systems.”
In her study, it was discovered that Mercury has a slightly higher number of female name-bearing craters compared to the Moon and Mars. Out of 415 craters, 49 (11.8%) were found to have female names.
According to Ms. Lennox, the reason for this is that Mercury, being a relatively new planet in terms of exploration, has possibly seen a rise in women’s participation in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Out of 280 craters, Mars has the lowest representation with only five (1.8%) named after women.
In contrast, Ms Lennox noted that while all the craters on Venus are named after women, only 38% of them actually honor women who have made meaningful contributions to society.
She stated that on the single planet designated for honoring the achievements of women, there are more unimportant characteristics named after random female names or mythical goddesses than actual women.
The main point of this argument is that giving more importance to being a celebrity – valuing recognition and prioritizing fame over actual contribution – unfairly puts women and marginalized groups at a disadvantage, regardless of their field.
Ms. Lennox stated that her initial focus was on studying the names of craters on different planets, but she is currently collaborating with international teams to examine all identified characteristics in the solar system.
She stated that she has personally given names to a few craters.
I felt the need to name my findings after female figures because I noticed a lack of female representation in the field I was researching, even though there was not readily accessible data on this disparity.
The realization was a major factor in initiating this entire project.
Unable to rephrase.