The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth and thanks to it, life as we know it is possible. Along the years, The Moon gave birth to various controversies, even after Neil Armstrong has “conquered” it back in 1969.
One of the dilemmas links to its name, which is not nearly as sophisticated as other satellites.
Almost all the planets and moons in the solar system have names derived from Greek or Roman mythology. Among the few exceptions lies the Earth and the Moon. For example, Mars is named after the God of war, and its moons are named after his sons, Deimos and Phobos. Jupiter is named after Zeus while its moons are named after a few amorous conquests of the supreme deity. An interesting exception to this tradition are the moons of Uranus, who received the names of several characters from Shakespeare’s works.
Other two exceptions are the Earth and the Moon. In connection with the Earth, things are quite clear, and its name does not conceal any deep significance.
The word “Luna” is of Latin origin and it’s associated with Selene, the favorite goddess of the romantic poets. In mythology, he is depicted as a young woman with a white face, traveling in a silver chariot pulled by two horses. About Selene is said to wear robes, holding a torch and has a crescent on the head. She wasn’t one of the 12 gods of Olympus, but it is the goddess of the moon.
Regarding its English name”Moon” things are slightly more complex. When people discovered the existence of other planets in the Solar System they were not sure of their satellites. This changed when Galileo Galilei observed Jupiter’s four moons, in 1610.
When the astronomers have discovered other satellites orbiting around the planets in the Solar system, one of the main reasons for having received the name was to differentiate them from the Moon.
According to the International Astronomical Union, the Moon retains the name “Moon” because it was the first moon that was discovered. It was easier to keep the original name than to give it a more sophisticated one, and the aim was to make things simpler for people, not more complicated.
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