Asteroid Name Syntax

The official asteroid name syntax is defined by the Minor Planet Center. Names in modern MPC format will be accepted by this service. Here is a brief summary of the official asteroid name syntax (Anything within angled brackets (<>) is a descriptive name. Anything within square brackets ([]) is optional. Everything else, including interior blanks, is a literal character):

Asteroid Name Type Syntax Example
Permanent Designation (numbered asteroid) (<multi-digit number>) <name> (2311) El Leoncito
Temporary Designation (prior to 1925) A<3 digit number representing the last 3 numbers of the year> <two letter designation>[<multi-digit number>] A908 AD
Temporary Designation (1925 and after) <4 digit number representing the year> <two letter designation>[<multi-digit number>] 1992 EE14
Temporary Designation (First Trojan Survey) <4 digit number> T-1 1030 T-1
Temporary Designation (Second Trojan Survey) <4 digit number> T-2 1014 T-2
Temporary Designation (Third Trojan Survey) <4 digit number> T-3 5694 T-3
Temporary Designation (Palomar-Leiden Survey) <4 digit number> P-L 2175 P-L

You may also enter the names of asteroids using the Lowell syntax. The following table describes the Lowell syntax using the same example asteroids as the previous table.

Asteroid Name Type Syntax Example
Permanent Designation (numbered asteroid) <multi-digit number> 2311
Temporary Designation (prior to 1925) A<2 digit number representing the last 2 numbers of the year><two letter designation>[<multi-digit number>] A08AD
Temporary Designation (1925 and after) <2 digit number representing the last two number of the year><two letter designation>[<multi-digit number>] 92EE14
Temporary Designation (First Trojan Survey) <4 digit number>T1 1030T1
Temporary Designation (Second Trojan Survey) <4 digit number>T2 1014T2
Temporary Designation (Third Trojan Survey) <4 digit number>T3 5694T3
Temporary Designation (Palomar-Leiden Survey) <4 digit number>PL 2175PL

Finally, you may enter any numbered asteroid by name. For example, "El Leoncito" will work.

The name parser is not sensitive to case, so asteroid designations may use upper or lower case letters whenever a letter is required. For example, "el leoncito", "eL lEONCITO", "EL LEONCITO", and "a08ad" are all valid.


© Lowell Observatory 2008
Web Curators: Ted Bowell & Bruce Koehn
Last modified: 2008 April 29