Re: Name an Asteroid

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#1 Wed, 1994-09-21 10:11
Ben Weiner
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Re: Name an Asteroid

It is true that asteroid names are sanctioned by the IAU. However I believe discoverers are allowed to name the asteroids themselves. And there is no shortage of new asteroids ("vermin of the skies" - just kidding). I believe the asteroid named "Zappafrank" which started this discussion was named this way - Zappa fans wrote to the Minor Planet Center, and some Czech astronomers agreed to name an asteroid they'd discovered after Zappa (Zappa's well-known friendship with Vaclav Havel and other dissidents and aid to the Czech Republic undoubtedly helped).

One minor difficulty is that there's already a Sun in the solar system, and I'm almost certain there's an asteroid named Ra, though I don't have the relevant catalog at hand. An asteroid named "Sunra" might reasonably be viewed as confusing. It may not matter, though, because I believe asteroids get a letter-code as well.

In any case, the best way to go about this is probably to write to Brian Marsden of the Minor Planet Center and explain that you think it would be appropriate to name an asteroid after Sun Ra, and ask how this would be achieved. Here is his address:

Dr. Brian Marsden Minor Planet Center Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory 60 Garden St. Cambridge, MA 02138 (USA)

He has an e-mail address, which is easy to find out, but I would recommend that you NOT e-mail him. Astronomers use their e-mail for work, especially someone like Marsden who is always getting reports of new observations and so on. Flooding his mailbox with requests might irritate him. Sending paper mail is better because it leaves a trace (as opposed to getting deleted), and a pile of paper mail is more impressive. Include your e-mail address in the letter, though, in case he wants to respond. I don't know Marsden at all, by the way, so this is just a guess as the best way to proceed.

Incidentally, asteroids are about the only class of object which gets proper names. Stars and galaxies get catalog numbers only - there are just too many of them. That Star Registry place is a complete scam (I know, they're giving people what they want, but don't feed them).

If this doesn't pan out, don't feel bad. I can't help feeling that it's entirely superfluous to the man and his music. And after all, Ra already has Saturn, certainly one of the most beautiful sights in the sky ...

Ben Weiner bweiner@physics.rutgers.edu