Moons, stars, and other celestial objects are notorious for having beautiful names inspired by mythology, nature, or history.
Looking at a list of moon names can be a great source of inspiration to pick a name for a newborn baby, a pet, or a character in a novel. There are all kinds of names to choose from. Some sound rhythmical, others are mysterious, and they are all unique.
Strictly speaking, only Earth’s satellite is called the Moon. All the objects for the other planets are known as natural satellites. However, the term is so widely used that it is ok to refer to all of them as moons.
How are moons named?
A moon is a natural satellite orbiting a planet. They are formed out of material left by a big asteroid impact or they are captured by the planet’s gravity.
In modern days, moons are named by the person or group that discovered them. It is strongly suggested to follow the tradition to name them after mythological characters. This convention was started by Galileo, an Italian astronomer that discovered four of Jupiter’s moons and made other big contributions to astronomy.
The exception to this rule are Uranus’ moons which are named after literary characters, mainly from Shakespeare’s work.
When a new moon is discovered, it receives a designation that starts with an “S/” followed by the year of discovery, the initial of its parent planet, and the order in which it was discovered for that year. So, for example, if a new moon was potentially discovered in Neptune in 2015, and it was the second moon discovered for the planet that year, it would have received the designation S/2015 N 2.
This designation is used while astronomers study the object in more detail to confirm that is really a satellite. If it passes this process and is confirmed, then it can receive a proper name.
The following table contains the complete list of moon names, the planet they belong to, and the year they were discovered.
There are currently 168 moons with assigned proper names. More than 30 other candidates are being studied at the moment to confirm their status as satellites but those have been removed from this list. For a list that contains those, check this page.
It is possible more moons are yet to be discovered. The most recent candidates were discovered on Saturn in 2019 thanks to images sent by the Cassini spacecraft as it orbited the planet. They are too small to be seen by Earth’s telescopes.
With that discovery, Saturn became the planet with the most moons in the Solar system with a total of 82.
The planets with the fewest are Mercury and Venus with zero as they are too close to the Sun and are not big enough to have one.
The list is ordered by the parent planets starting from Earth.
As for the meanings of the moon names, they all come from characters of Greek mythology. The only exceptions are the Moon which comes from the early Germanic word for “month”, and the moons of Uranus that are named after literature characters, particularly from the works of William Shakespeare or Alexander Pope.
At the bottom of the table, you will find that the moons of dwarf planets have also been included.
Alternative names for the Moon
In other languages and cultures the Moon is referred to as:
- Luna – From the Latin word for “luminous”
- Selene – greek goddess of the Moon
Other names associated with the Moon in Greek mythology are:
- Artemis – Goddess of the hunt
- Diana – Patroness of the countryside, hunters, and the moon
- Cynthia – From “the mount Cynthus” where the moon comes from in mythology
Who named the moons?
Moons were named by the astronomers or teams that discovered them. They get to name them whatever they want, but it is strongly suggested by the astronomical community to follow the convention of using mythological or literary characters.
Moons are some of the few celestial objects that still receive proper names in modern times. There are so many stars, galaxies, nebulae, and exoplanets that they now just receive a scientific catalog designation and not a short name.
List of names of other celestial objects
If you didn’t find a name you liked above, check out these other lists that contain hundreds of other names you can use for inspiration.