A Small Solar System Body (SSSB) is an object in the Solar System that is neither a planet, nor a dwarf planet, nor a satellite. This encompasses all comets and all minor planets, as well as all asteroids (that are classed as minor planets).

I want to know if there is a term for classifying Small Extra Solar System Bodies. What about comets and minor planets in systems other than our own. Do they have a classification?

Is there also a recognised categorisation for Small Bodies regardless of whether they are in the solar system or not?

In the same way the 'solar system' pertains to our system but a 'planetary system' means any system including but not limited to our own.

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    $\begingroup$ This may be a more appropriate question for Astronomy Stack Exchange $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 20:22

1 Answer 1


At the moment, the answer appears to be a solid 'unlikely'. Here's why:

First off, check out the Nomenclature section of the Wikipedia article on exoplanets. It's fairly long, and talks largely about the main system I've come across, which is

$$\text {[Parent star name]} \text { [lowercase letter designating order of exoplanet from star]}$$

So for the fourth exoplanet out orbiting a star called, say, Fromengaard, the name would be

$$\text {Fromengaard d}$$

And if there were two stars in the Fromengaard system and the planets orbited the smaller star, this one would be designated as

$$\text {Fromengaard Bd}$$

Sometimes the stars are named after the star catalogues they were first included in, and sometimes they are named after the telescope that discovered them, but on the whole, explanet naming is relatively straightforward. The IAU explains it better here. The problem is, the IAU messed it all up recently by - well, read the news release yourself. It allows people to vote on new exoplanet names, therefore completely destroying any sort of order in exoplanet names.

I make a good deal of fuss about this because, quite frankly, people care more about planets - and exoplanets - than they care about Small Solar System Bodies. Why? Because we haven't found many - if any. Even objects as large as exomoons are still largely hypothetical. And if people care about exoplanets and still don't want a uniform naming system. . . Well, I don't think any Extra Solar System Bodies are going to have a shot at a uniform system.

Also, the term small solar system body covers a lot. We don't have a uniform designation for them, either. Check the names here and see if you can find a pattern (there isn't one). Also check here to take a look at the names. See if you can spot all of the Monty Python members. But seriously, the system for asteroids is elaborated upon here. Here's what you need to know:

When an asteroid is first discovered, it is given a provisional designation like "1999 RQ36." The first four digits tell you what year it was discovered. The last four characters tell you when in that year it was discovered. 1999 RQ36 was the 916th object observed in the first half of September, 1999. Once the asteroid's orbit is precisely known, it is issued an official sequential number. 1999 RQ36 was the 101,955th asteroid to receive a number, so it is now formally known as 101955. Only about 5% of numbered asteroids have been given names.

So there is a sort of system to it, but it breaks down once the asteroids have their 'permanent' names. Comets have a separate system. It was originally hard to name them because many returned to Earth's general area, and back in the 1600s, astronomers couldn't really track them.

The point is, we don't have a uniform system for naming a) objects around other stars or b) small solar system bodies orbiting our own Sun. Put the two together and you're going to have a nightmarish time sorting through the designations.

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe this could use an update given recent developments? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 13:17

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