Hello, Nihonium. Scientists Name 4 New Elements On The Periodic Table : The Two-Way The new superheavy, radioactive elements were added to the periodic table last year but given temporary and unremarkable names: ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctoium.
NPR logo Hello, Nihonium. Scientists Name 4 New Elements On The Periodic Table

Hello, Nihonium. Scientists Name 4 New Elements On The Periodic Table

Kosuke Morita, who led a group of researchers that discovered element 113, speaks at a press conference at in Tokyo on June 9. The name nihonium stems from the fact that element 113 was discovered in Japan, and Nihon is one way to say the country's name in Japanese. Eugene Hoshiko/AP hide caption

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Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Kosuke Morita, who led a group of researchers that discovered element 113, speaks at a press conference at in Tokyo on June 9. The name nihonium stems from the fact that element 113 was discovered in Japan, and Nihon is one way to say the country's name in Japanese.

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

It's time to update your copy of the periodic table. Four new elements discovered in recent years have now been named, pending final approval by the international group of scientists in charge of the table.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has announced these proposed names:

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113
  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115
  • Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117
  • Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118

The new superheavy, radioactive elements were actually added to the periodic table late last year and given these temporary and unremarkable names: ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctoium.

An entry on the periodic table of the elements filled in and autographed by physics professors Joe Hamilton and A. V. Ramayya is displayed at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Their research team discovered a new element and named it tennessine after Tennessee. Mark Humphrey/AP hide caption

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Mark Humphrey/AP

An entry on the periodic table of the elements filled in and autographed by physics professors Joe Hamilton and A. V. Ramayya is displayed at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Their research team discovered a new element and named it tennessine after Tennessee.

Mark Humphrey/AP

But the IUPAC lets the discoverers of an element submit permanent names. Rules say they have to fall into one of five categories — a new element can be named after a mythological concept or character, a mineral or substance, a place or geographic region, a property of the element, or a scientist.

That's how we get nihonium, discovered by scientists at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Japan. IUPAC says Nihon is one of two ways to say "Japan" in Japanese, and that element 113 is the first to have been discovered in an Asian country.

Moscovium was proposed by its discoverers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, which is near Moscow. Similarly, the name tennessine is a nod to scientific contributions from Tennessee, home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Oganesson was discovered by collaborating teams of Russians in the city of Dubna and Americans at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The name honors Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian, a pioneer in the discovery of superheavy elements. He is the second person to have an element named after him while still alive. The first is Nobel-winning scientist Glenn Seaborg, who, among other things, discovered plutonium.

The new names are up for public comment for five months. Formal approval by the IUPAC Council will be announced in early November.

That means it's too late for the more than 150,000 Change.org petitioners who wanted to honor the late Lemmy Kilmister of the heavy metal band Motorhead by naming element 115 "lemmium."