Asteroids, Minor Planets, and Composers

Every so often when researching a composer, I come across a notation about a celestial body being named after them.  This came to mind again with the recent fly by of Pluto.

So how do you get an asteroid or minor planet named after you?  Well it can take a while.

 You cannot buy these celestial bodies.  Names are submitted to the International Astronomical Union and they are judged by a 15 person panel of astronomers. And it can be a long process leading up to the naming.
Once an asteroid or other bodies is discovered and reported, it is observed for quite some time.  They must be sure that it is actually a new object being discovered.  This process can take several years.  At the beginning of the process, a number sequence is assigned.
When it reaches the naming stage, the panel chooses from submitted names.  There are a number of guidelines that must be followed.  For example:
  • Proposed names should be:
    • 16 characters or less in length (including any spaces or punctuation)
    • preferably one word
    • pronounceable (in some language)
    • non-offensive
    • not too similar to an existing name of a minor planet or natural planetary satellite
  • Names for persons or events known primarily for their military or political activities are acceptable only after 100 years elapsed since the person died or the event occurred.
  • Names of pet animals are discouraged.
  • Names of a purely or principally commercial nature are not allowed.
There are further rules to follow about naming things near particular planets.  It can quite an involved process.

For interest, here is the list of asteroids or small planets named after classical composers:

  • 734 Benda (Karel Bendl)
  • 1034 Mozartia (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
  • 1059 Mussorgskia (Modest Mussorgsky)
  • 1405 Sibelius (Jean Sibelius)
  • 1814 Bach (member of Bach family, probably Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 1815 Beethoven (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 1818 Brahms (Johannes Brahms)
  • 2047 Smetana (Bedřich Smetana)
  • 2055 Dvořák (Antonín Dvořák)
  • 2073 Janáček (Leoš Janáček)
  • 2205 Glinka (Mikhail Glinka)
  • 2266 Tchaikovsky (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)
  • 2420 Čiurlionis (Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis)
  • 2523 Ryba (Jakub Jan Ryba)
  • 2669 Shostakovich (Dmitri Shostakovich)
  • 3081 Martinůboh (Bohuslav Martinů)
  • 3159 Prokof’ev (Sergei Prokofiev)
  • 3590 Holst (Gustav Holst)
  • 3592 Nedbal (Oskar Nedbal)
  • 3784 Chopin (Frédéric Chopin)
  • 3826 Handel (George Frideric Handel)
  • 3917 Franz Schubert (Franz Schubert)
  • 3941 Haydn (Joseph Haydn)
  • 3954 Mendelssohn (Felix Mendelssohn)
  • 3955 Bruckner (Anton Bruckner)
  • 3975 Verdi (Giuseppe Verdi)

 

To see other names of asteroids and more information in general, visit the International Astronomical Union at http://www.iau.org/

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