New place names have been approved within the lunar crater von Kármán where the Chinese Chang’e-4 probe landed .
Kármán, who was a Hungarian-American aerospace engineer, has craters named on both the Moon and Mars. The crater is a 180-km diameter central peak crater parly flooded by lava.
The choice of this landing site is symbolic: Qian Xuesen (钱学森, Tsien Hsue-shen), whose name is associated with China’s Space Program, was a student of Kármán when he studied and worked in the USA. He was deported from the USA in 1955 and after returning to China he participated in the initiation of the Chinese missile program, in Chinese atomic and hydrogen bomb tests and his reseach was used as a basis for the Long March rocket.
Now, as the Chinese Chang’e-4 probe landed in this crater, IAU officially approved Chinese-origin names for five sites. The names are based on the folk tale “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl”. While European nations named planetary features after ancient Greco-Roman mythology, Chinese-given names stem from ancient Chinese folktales. Both European and Chinese stories originate from the about 2600-2700 years ago and both are also associated with the names of celestial objects. These are the roots of celestial stories, in both cultures.
The names are:
Landing site – Statio Tianhe: Tianhe is the ancient Chinese name for the Milky Way.
Three simple craters form a triangle around the landing site. They are named after characters in the tale that also formed an ancient Chinese constellation, the same three stars as the western culture’s “Summer Triangle”. The celestial shape is reflected in the lunar “triangle” of craters.
Zhinyu 织女 (the Chinese name corresponds to the star Vega)
Hegu 河鼓 (Chinese constellation in Aquila: Altair 河鼓二 and two adjacent stars)
Tianjin 津 (Corresponds to a Chinese constellation at the tail of Cygnus where less stars are visible. Taking the analog of the Milky Way as a river, this is a shallow part of the Milky Way, near Deneb 天津四)
The name “Mons Tai” 泰山 is assigned to the central peak of the crater Von Kármán. It is named after a mountain in Shandong, China, which is considered one of the “Five Sacred Mountains in China”. There was a poem written by Du Fu 杜甫 (also commemorated on Mercury) about this mountain, originally composed of lines of 5 Chinese characters:
A View of Taishan
What shall I say of the Great Peak? —
The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green,
Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation,
With the Twin Forces balancing day and night
…I bare my breast toward opening clouds,
I strain my sight after birds flying home.
When shall I reach the top and hold
All mountains in a single glance?
Mons Tai is the second central peak in the Solar System to be named, the first being Aeolis Mons on Mars, at the Curisity working area. This name, “Aeolis Mons”, is almost never used by American scientists who call it Mount Sharp named after R.P. Sharp, an American planetary geomorphologist.
The naming is in accordance with the new (2017) IAU WGPSN rule according to which groups of smaller features within a larger named feature shall be named so that the names bear a mnemonic relationship to the given name of the larger feature.
As per IAU rules, only the Roman-character names are considered official. There is a growing number of names of Chinese origin in the IAU nomenclature, however, these non-roman forms are not even noted in the Planetary Gazetteer.
We are grateful for Jingming for the contribution to this article.