Illustrious Names in the Heavens: Arabic and Islamic Names of the Moon Craters

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24 craters of the Moon bear names of Arabic and Islamic origin. In majority, these names are those of famous scholars of Islamic civilisation. We present below a list of those crater-names on the Moon, with their geographical coordinates and biographical sketches on the scholars thus honoured and immortalized.

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On the Moon, 24 craters have the names of famous scholars from the Islamic civilisation. We present below a list of those crater-names on the Moon, with their geographical coordinates, the year of approval by the International Astronomical Union, and biographical sketches on the scholars thus honored and immortalized. Finally, the paper is completed by a list of further resources on the Arabic and Islamic crater-names on the Moon.

Figure 1: The tormented surface of the Moon, showing the multiple sites of the lunar formations.

The 24 names were all approved by the International Astronomical Union. A crater named Abduh (after Muhammad Abduh, the Egyptian writer; 1849-1905) was never approved by the IAU; the IAU-approved name for this feature is Lyell A.

The 24 names of scholars from the Islamic civilisation given to Moon craters were adopted by the IAU at three different dates in the 20th century: 1935, 1970 and 1976. Ulugh Beigh was designated in 1961. It would be interesting to note that the names chosen in 1935 were those known in Latin scholarship, while those added some 40 years later are the result of the progress of the studies on Islamic civilisation, that unearthed valuable contributions of those scholars of whose the names had this honour.

Figure 2: Specimen of craters named after Arabic famous names.

The names chosen in the first wave were mentioned under their Latinized names (see Latinized Names of Muslim Scholars), such as Alhazen, Azophi, Alpetragius, Albataneus, Alfraganus, etc. Later on, Arabic names were added. The works of the members of this later list were not known in Latin in the Middle Ages, such as Omar al-Khayyam, Ibn Yunus, al Biruni, etc. In the case of Ibn Rushd, it is singular that his Arabic name was given to a crater, even though there exists a famous Latinized patronym, i.e. Averroes.

Figure 3: Abulfeda crater location.

The names reflect the diversity of Islamic civilisation and the richness of its contribution to universal science: a Sabian, Thabit ibn Qurra, Messala, a Jew, and 22 names of Muslim scholars. Curiously, there is no name of a Christian scholar. Actually, Qusta ibn Luqa or Hunayn ibn Ishaq would have deserved such a distinction, especially that the first did important works in theoretical and instrumental astronomy (especially his work on the celestial globe and his Kitab al-hay'a (Book on Astronomy) unearthed recently in Islamic studies). Let's note finally that the scientific traditions of al-Andalus and of the Islamic west are well represented with 7 names (Jabir ibn Aflah, Ibn Rushd, al-Zarqali, al-Bitruji, al-Bakri, Ibn Battuta, al-Murrakushi).

No Name Arabic Name and Biographical Sketch Latitude Longitude Diameter (in km) Approval Year
01 Abulfeda Isma'il Ibn Abu al-Fida: Syrian geographer (1273-1331 CE). 14 S 14 E 65 1935
02 Abulwafa Abu al-Wafa al-Buzajani: Persian mathematician and astronomer (940-998 CE). 1.0 N 116.6 E 55.05 1970
03 Al-Bakri Abu ‘Ubayd Abdallah Ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz Ibn Muhammad al-Bakri: Andalusian geographer (1010-1094 CE). 14.3 N 20.2 E 12.05 1976
04 Al-Biruni Abu ar-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni: astronomer, mathematician, and geographer; flourished in Afghanistan and India (973-1048 CE). 17.9 N 92.5 E 77.05 1970
05 Al-Khwarizmi Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi: Baghdadi mathematician and astronomer from Khwarazm (unknown-c. 825 CE). 7.1 N 106.4 E 65.05 1973
06 Al-Marrakushi Abu ‘Ali al-Hasan Ibn ‘Ali al-Marrakushi: astronomer and mathematician: origin from Morocco, lived and worked in Egypt (fl. c. 1281/1282 CE). 10.4 S 55.8 E 8.05 1976
07 Albategnius Muhammed b. Jaber Al-Battani (Lat. Albategnius): Arab astronomer and mathematician, origin from Harran, Mesopotamia (c. 858-929 CE). 11.7 S 4.3 E 114.05 1935
08 Alfraganus Abu 'l-'Abbas Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Kathir al-Farghani (Lat. Alfraganus): Baghdadi astronomer of Iranian origin (unknown-c. 840 CE). 5.4 S 19.0 E 20.05 1935
09 Alhazen Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn al Haytham (lat. Alhazen); mathematician, astronomer and physicist origin from Iraq, lived in Cairo (987-1038 CE). 15.9 N 71.8 E 32.05 1935
10 Almanon Abu Ja'far Abdallah al-Ma'mun ibn Harun al-Rashid (lat. Almamon) (14.09.786-09.08.833 CE): Abbasid caliph in Baghdad (reigned 813-833 CE). Supported in a decisive way the scientific research, including astronomical observations and measures. 16.8 S 15.2 E 49.05 1935
11 Alpetragius Abu Ishaq Nur al-Din Al-Bitruji Al-Ishbili (lat. Alpetragius): Andalusian astronomer (unknown-c. 1100 CE). 16.0 S 4.5 W 39.05 1935
12 Arzachel Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Yahya al-Naqqash al-Zarqalluh or al-Zarqali (lat. Arzachel): leading Andalusian mathematician and the foremost astronomer of his time; He flourished in Toledo, Al-Andalus (1028–1087 CE). 18.2 S 1.9 W 96.05 1935
13 Avicenna Abu ‘Ali al-Hussayn Ibn Sina (lat. Avicenna): Philosopher, physician and scholar from Iran (980-1037 CE). 39.7 N 97.2 W 74.05 1970
14 Azophi Abderrahman al-Sufi (lat. Azophi): famous astronomer, well known for his book of the stars; of Iranian origin (903-986 CE). 22.1 S 12.7 E 47.05 1935
15 Geber Abu Muhammad Jabir Ibn Aflah al-Ishbili (lat. Geber): Andalusian astronomer (fl. first half of 12th century). 19.4 S 13.9 E 44.05 1935
16 Ibn Battuta Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd Allah Ibn Battuta: Moroccan geographer and traveller (1304-1377 CE). 6.9 S 50.4 E 11.05 1976
17 Ibn Firnas ‘Abbas Ibn Firnas (latinized name Armen Firman) AlIbn Firnas : Andalusian humanitarian, technologist, and inventor (c. 810-887 CE). 6.8 N 122.3 E 89.05 1976
18 Ibn Yunus Abu al-Hasan ben Ahmad ibn Yunus al-Sadafi: Egyptian astronomer (950-1009). 14.1 N 91.1 E 58.05 1970
19 Ibn-Rushd Abu al-Walid Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd (lat. Averroës): Andalusian philosopher and physician (1126-1198). 11.7 S 21.7 E 32.05 1976
20 Messala Ma-sha' Allah ibn Athari al-Basri (lat. Messala): Iraqi Jewish astronomer and astrologer (c.740-d.815 CE). 39.2 N 60.5 E 125.05 1935
21 Nasireddin Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tusi, better known as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (18.02.1201 in Tus, Khorasan-26.06.1274 CE in Kadhimain near Baghdad): famous and prolific scientist from Iran. 41 S 0.2 E 52.05 1935
22 Omar Khayyam Omar Khayyam or al-Khayyami: Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet (c. 1048-c. 1131 CE). 58.0 N 102.1 W 70.05 1970
23 Thebit Thabit Ibn Qurrah al-Sabi' al-Harrani Thabit Ibn Qurra (lat. Thebit): Iraqi scientist and astronomer (836-901 CE). 22.0 S 4.0 W 56.05 1935
24 Ulugh Beigh Ulugh Beg (also Ulug Bey, Ulugh Bek and Ulug Bek) (1393-94-October 27, 1449 CE) was the Timurid ruler of Samarkand sultanate as well as an astronomer and mathematician (his work fields of research were trigonometry and spherical geometry). His real name was Mirza Mohammad Taragai bin Shahrukh. 32.7 N 81.9 W 54.05 1961

Further resources and credits of the pictures:

Arabic & Islamic Crater-Names on the Moon at ICOP (Islamic Crescent Observation Project): link.

Astrogeology Research Program - Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. Moon Nomenclature: Crater, craters: link.

Catalogue of Lunar Crater Names: link.

Cratères, Craters, by Jérôme Grenier: link.

List of Craters on the Moon: link.

Moon-"light" Atlas: Cratera: link.

The Moon in Close-up, by Damian Peach: link.

The NASA, Apollo over the Moon: A View from Orbit, Chapter 2: Regional Views: link.

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