Naming names


  • Anonymous


The tiny, 1.5-km wide moon that NASA's Galileo mission discovered and photographed around the asteroid Ida no longer has to go by the nondescript appellation of “it.” The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has formally bestowed the name of Dactyl on Ida's moon. Dactyl is derived from the Dactyli, a group of mythological beings who lived on Mount Ida, where the infant Zeus was hidden by the nymph Ida and protected by the Dactyli, according to some mythological accounts. The IAU, which is responsible for naming all solar system bodies, also approved names for the surface features on another asteroid called Gaspra, which was visited by Galileo in October of 1991. Gaspra was the first asteroid to be visited by a spacecraft.