This list is an attempt to satisfy a long-standing urge to put together a list of astronomical eponyms. I did a core dump of everything I could think of, and Tom Matheson, who wandered into my office at some point, helped out. After I posted this on the Facebook Astronomers' page, many, many people pitched in, and the list was greatly augmented. At the risk of offending all of those who contributed, some of the more prolific contributions came from Howard Bond, Nick Suntzeff, Abi Saha, Michael Strauss, Bryan Gaensler, and Lori Allen.
I welcome contributions to this list, especially if you have better
explanatory links than what I have below. I've made a few rules as to what to accept:
Tod R. Lauer (NOAO)
- This is about astronomy and astrophysics. These fields have tremendous overlap with physics, mathematics, and optics, so drawing a sharp line as to where to stop is going to be fuzzy, arbitrary, and probably inconsistent. My intent is to include things that are largely of interest in the domain of astrophysics, but less so to other disciplines. This might be narrow, but I didn't want to random walk into including all of physics and mathematics. This, of course, is likely to result in outcomes that will be less satisfying to others, but there you have it.
- I wanted to keep the list tied directly to important research contributions that are honored by direct use of the authors' names. This avoids putting asteroids, craters, facilities, etc. named after astronomers on the list, which are often handed out as honors, but do not directly reference a specific scientific work. The Hubble Space Telescope is not on the list, for example. Comet names are an interesting case. Since they are direcly and formally
named after the discoverer, I really don't consider them to be proper eponyms
that emerged from common usage. The obvious exception is Halley's Comet, which
is on the list. This was never a formal designation, but arose from usage:
"Hey, there's that comet that Halley was going on about."
Likewise, I wanted to sidestep observatories and programs named after benefactors. Again, you might prefer different choices (I did my PhD at Lick, for example, but do not have the "Lick indices" on the list, even though they were created by my advisor and close friend, Sandra Faber).
- One subtlety concerns the use of catalogues. I did not want to simply reference someone who made a catalogue, and I certainly didn't want to overwhelm the list with actual catalogued objects, like Abell 1656, Wolf 359, Arp 220, and so on. But at the same time, many catalogues define a novel class of objects that becomes important in its own right, and which is refereed to by an unambiguous eponym. So, while I would not list Abell 1656, people do refer generically to "Abell Clusters," or "Arp objects," as shorthand for a particular type of galaxy cluster or peculiar galaxy that is understood to those in the conversation.
- In many cases, there is more than one form of an eponym. Is it the
"Titus-Bode law," or just "Bode's law?" I favored the latter, as this is
how I learned it, and is usually how I hear it being used. I will
entertain corrections to this, and at some point may list alternatives.
I have generally not listed closely related eponyms. I have, say "Lyman series,"
but not Lyman limit, continuum, and so on. At the same time, there
are often important components to this. "Roche lobe" and "Roche limit" come
from the same concept, but they are very different beasts, so both are
on the list. One thing I haven't figured out are "second generation"
eponyms. "Wolf-Rayet stars" is an obvious eponym, but what about
"Wolf-Rayet galaxy?" This latter designation is not about a class of
systems described by Wolf or Rayet, but instead is about galaxies full
of WR stars.
- I have checked all suggestions not known to me on Google. This quickly shows if the nominal eponym is used in research work, and often identifies a more preferred form of the particular eponym.
- I reserve the right to be arbitrary and inconsistent with your input, but you are always welcome to twist my arm!