For Becky, Harrison & Baby
my triple star
In Order of Appearance
First Fragment Litany
Second Fragment Poetry on the Rocks
Third Fragment Nomenclature
Fourth Fragment An Asteroid Belt
Fifth Fragment` Happy Snaps
Sources & Further Reading
Appendix A TRIAD excerpt
Appendix B Draft poem
The asteroids are chunks of rock and metal which circle the Sun. It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of asteroids in the Solar System, most of them measuring only a few metres across, and most of them (around 95%) situated between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, in an area known as the Asteroid Belt.
Astronomers had long been puzzled by the absence of a planet which should, by geometric law, be placed between Mars and Jupiter. In 1801, the Sicilian astronomer Guiseppe Piazzi discovered the first asteroid, Ceres, whose orbit corresponded to that expected from the “missing planet”. Soon after, many more asteroids were discovered through painstaking observation, and as photographic techniques were developed, astronomers pored over thousands of plates to find tiny specks of light moving across the background of stars – the tell-tale path of an asteroid.
Ceres is by far the largest asteroid, measuring around 1,000km across, or approximately the distance between Melbourne and Newcastle. The next largest asteroid, Vesta, is half this size, and only 20 are larger than 250km. Most that have been found are around the size of a house or a car. With asteroids, the rule is quantity rather than size, and Ceres alone accounts for one third of the mass of all known asteroids.
The Asteroid Belt covers a very large space, measuring between 2 and 4 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and most of the asteroids are situated tens of millions of kilometres apart, which explains why NASA spacecraft such as Pioneer, Voyager and Cassini experienced very little danger of collision during their trips to the outer planets. But some asteroids inhabit different orbits; a significant number are closer towards the Sun and cross Earth’s orbit, such as the asteroids Icarus and Apollo, while others are much further out beyond the orbit of Pluto, in an area known as the Kuiper Belt.
Through direct observation in various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, astronomers have learned much about the colour, texture, warmth, physical make-up and spin of the asteroids. A number of spacecraft have visited asteroids and have made many valuable discoveries, and it is conceivable that in the future people might exploit the asteroids for mineral resources, an endeavour which will probably be accompanied by the kinds of conflicts and disputes which constantly seem to vex the human race.
I find asteroids fascinating. They are as much a part of the Solar System as the Sun, the Moon and the planets, and they are many; but for most of us they are largely unseen and unknown. I am not a scientist and The Asteroid Project is not a work of science. It can best be described as a verbal and visual contemplation, and an attempt to share my own sense of wonder upon a different order of reality – the realm of the asteroids.
Over the following five pages is a fabulous litany of the asteroids.
It is estimated that there are around 500,000 asteroids in the Solar System; of these, around 20,000 have been discovered and catalogued since Ceres was discovered by Piazzi on January 1st 1801. Due to advances in observational technology, most of the known asteroids have been found over the last 25 years.
I decided to focus my attention on the 2118 asteroids which had been catalogued up to 1979, the osculating orbital elements of which were tabled in Asteroids (edited by T. Gehrels, 1979) and derived from the Tuscon Revised Index of Asteroid Data (TRIAD). I was fascinated by the variety, the sounds and the richness of this list. Behind each asteroid was a human being who had discovered it, spending hours upon hours studying photographic plates and searching for the “blink” which indicates a moving object within a predicted field of space. In this spirit of effort, I decided to type out all 2118 names of the asteroids and present them as an unbroken list of words. No scanning, no photocopying, no pasting from websites: instead, the enjoyable application of time and concentration which, whilst merely an act of copying, was all about the love of text, the beauty of words and imagination. If I were a visual artist I would scatter these names all around an art gallery.
You will notice that some of the asteroids are listed as “Lost”. These sad objects had been discovered and verified by reputable astronomers, but they have never been seen again. Could these be ghost asteroids?
As you progress through the litany, you will see the names slowly change from female mythological characters to male astronomer-discoverers to dry catalogue numbers. I will explore names further in the Third Fragment; for now, it is time to meet a representative sample of the thousands and thousands of ancient asteroids which turn silently around the Sun, unnoticed and unknown by you and I.
Ceres Pallas Juno Vesta Astraea Hebe Iris Flora Metis Hygeia Parthenope Victoria Egeria Irene Eunomia Psyche Thetis Melpomonene Fortuna Massalia Lutetia Kalliope Thalia Themis Phocaea Proserpina Euterpe Bellona Amphitrite Urania Euphrosyne Pomoma Polyhmnia Circe Leukothea Atalante Fides Leda Laetitia Harmonia Daphne Isis Ariadne Nysa Eugenia Hestia Aglaja Doris Pales Virginia Nemausa Europa Kalypso Alexandra Pandora Melete Mnemosyne Concordia Elpis Echo Danae Erato Ausonia Angelina Cybele Maja Asia Leto Hesperia Panopaea Niobe Feronia Klytia Galatea Eurydike Freia Frigga Diana Eurynome Sappho Terpsichore Alkmene Beatrix Klio Io Semele Sylvia Thisbe Julia Antiope Aegina UndinaH73 Minerva Aurora Arethusa Aegle Klotho Ianthe Dike Hekate Helena Miriam Hera Klymene Artemis Dione Camilla Hecuba Felicitas Lydia Ate Iphigenia Amalthea Kassandra Thyra Sirona Lomia Peitho Althaea Lachesis Hermione Gerda Brunhild Alkeste Liberatrix Velleda Johanna Nemesis Antigone Elektra Vala Aethra Cyrene Sophrosyne Hertha Austria Meliboea Tolosa Juewa Siwa Lumen Polana Adria Vibilia Adeona Lucina Protogeneia Gallia Medusa Nuwa Abundantia Atala Hilda Bertha Scylla Xanthippe Dejanira Koronis Aemilia Una Athor Laurentia Erigone Eva Loreley Rhodope Urda Sibylla Zelia Maria Ophelia Baucis Ino Phaedra Andromache Iduna Irma Belisana Klytaemnestra Garumna Eucharis Elsa Istria Dejopeja Eunike Celuta Lamberta Menippe Phthia Ismene Kolga Nausiakaa Ambrosia Prokne Eurykleia Philomela Arete Ampella Byblis Dynamene Penelope Chriseis Pompeja Kallisto Martha Hersilia Hedda Lacrimosa Dido Isabella Isolda Medea Lilaea Aschera Denone Kleopatra Eudora Bianca Thusnelda Stephania Eos Lucia Rosa Oceana Henrietta Weringia Philosophia Agathe Adelinda Athamantis Vindobona Russia Asterope Barbara Carolina Honoria Coelestina Hypatia Adrastea Vanadis Germania Kriemhild Ida Sita Vera Asporina Eukrate Lameia Ilse Bettina Sophia Clementina Mathilde Augusta Oppavia Walpurga Silesia Tyche Aletheia Huberta Prymno Valda Dresda Libussa Anna Aline Tirza Adorea Justitia Anahita Penthisilea Antonia Atropos Philagoria Sapientia Adelheid Elvira Paulina Thule Philia Lucretia Clorinde Emma Amalia Regina Iclea Nephthys Glauke Nenetta Bruna Alice Ludovica Brasilia Felicia Theresia Phaetusa Caecilia Baptistina Thora Geraldina Bavaria Clarissa Josephina Olga Gordonia Unitas Nike Polyxo Fraternitas Margarita Claudia Pieretta Chaldaea Rosalia Constantia Goberta Roxane Magdalena Leona Katharina Florentina Phaed Brucia Bamberga Heidelberga Tamara Columbia Gudrun Svea Adalberta(Lost) Etheridgea Siri Badenia Chicago Roberta Lacadiera Devosa Budrosa Dorothea Eduarda California Endymion Ostara Desiderata Tercidina Hermentaria Pariana May Dembowska Ornamenta Yrsa Gisela Ruperto-Carola Eleonora Gabriella Liguria Ninia Appolonia Georgia Carlova Bononia Havnia Padua Isara Corduba Vincentina Amicitia Haidea Aeria Modesta Bohemia Palma Melusina Burgundia Ursula Geometria Campania Holmia Huenna Fiducia Myhrra Dodona Janina Burdigala Ilmatar Siegena Aguitania Charybdis Industria Alma Ingeborg Wilhelmina Lampetia Arduina Delia Aeolia Vienna Admete Persephone Ducrosa Ottilia Chloe Cyane Arsinoe Thia Erna Arachne Fama Aspasia Chloris Xanthe Elisabetha Edburga Liriope Palatia Vaticana Suevia Alemannia Aurelia Bertholda Zahringia Berolina Diotima Gratia Cornelia Hippo Galene Monachia Lotis Hybris Nephele Pythia Eros Hungaria Ella Patricia Rhodia Zeuxo Ohio Theodora Bathilde Eichsfeldia Photographica Gyptis Edna Aeternitas Valentine Natalie Hamburga Brigitta Patientia Hamiltonia(Lost) Tea Mathesis Bruchsalia Abnoba Alleghenia Hercynia Signe Scania Saskia Eriphyla Lola Megaira Alekto Tisiphone Laura Lina Argentina Kilia Papagena Roma Nolli(Lost) Prudentia Ocllo Hedwig Italia Tergeste Caprera Hansa Emita Petrina Seppina Pittsburghia Genua Cremona Venetia Kreusa Comacina Veritas Carina Gismonda Griseldis Virtus Eulalia Gryphia Iva Tokio Venusia Selinur Urhixidur Sigune Evelyn Cora Cava Marion Laddica Princetonia Iolanda Mabella Davida Taurinensis Centesima Armida Athalia Amherstia Edith Halawe Sulvania Franziska Brixia Helga Ada Fidelio Adelaide Jena Euryanthe Rezia Preziosa Turandot Zerlina Herculina Sara Nassovia Montague Merapi Pauly Friederike Pamina Rosamunde Deborah Susanna Charlotte Jetta Messalina Herodias Praxedis Kressida Jessonda Senta Ortrud Sigelinde Kundry Peraga Norma Phyllis Violetta Carmen Nanon Delia Ingwelde Salome Suleika Dudu Marbachia Stereoskopia Eleutheria Cheruskia Misa Kythera Dulcinea Rebekka Recha Reginhild Renate Emanuela Rhea Happelia Sidonia Selene Tauntonia Olympia Klotilde Semiramis Bilkis Thekla Hypsipyle Achilles Croatia Tomyris Irmgard Bathseba Titania Mireille Polyxena Schelia Bandusia Octavia Luisa Musa Nerthus Marianna Timandra(Lost) Tekmessa Juvisia Brangane Jenny Adolfine Fulvia Valeska Veronika(Lost) Ginerva Pia Roswitha Elly Patroclus Elfriede Triberga Drakonia Werdandi Esther Chimaera Hektor Xenia Nothburga Charis Christine Bernardina Euphemia Philippina Pyrrha Zelima Ute Vundtia Erika Chrysothemis Moira Latona Brambilla Agnes Clara Scheherezade Cosima Agrippina Kastalia Adelgunde Pippa Josefa Amalasuntha Antikleia Jubilatrix Berenike Zelinda Briseis Beagle Gunlod Asteria Nestor Crescentia Cloelia Newtonia Gerlinde Judith Sabine Desdemona Denise Dora Kypria Ottegebe Carnegia Astarte Edda Rachele Ludmilla Melitta Aaltje Fredegundis Pax Genoveva Gorgo Hagar(Lost) Lanzia Hildburg Hermia Gersuind Tinette Melanie Zita Wratislavia Lehigh Hippodamia Zerbinetta Ekard Bella Leonora Galilea Ernestina Hela Auravictrix Oriola Alauda Noemi Interamnia Erminia Hirundo Steina Raphaela Fringilla Gertrud Marmulla Boliviana Luscinia Ulula Transvaalia Berkeley Wisibada Erida Albert(Lost) Bohlinia Tabora Frieda Hammonia Hapag Amanda Joella Nipponia Leonisis Watsonia Athanasia Sorga Tjilaki Mocia Benda Marghanna Harvard Arequipa Alagasta Mandeville Cantabia Botolphia Edisona Eugenisis Aguntina Mauritia Marlu Winchester Simeisa Malzovia Oskar Faina Sulamitis Tiflis Malabar Quintilla Lilliana Portlandia Mancunia Vinifera Massinga Brendelia Pulcova Cupido Gedania Mattiaca Moguntia Bondia Struveana Tatjana Bali Libera Tanete Irmintraud Armor Lumiere Berbericia Gutemberga Theobalda Nina Armenia Kartvelia Montefiore Nora Pickeringia Zwetana Bredichina Moskva Hohensteina Lena Pretoria Ani Metcalfia Arizona Irenaea Fini Sarita Montana Ruth Gudula Kressmannia Helwerthia Epyaxa Picka Hispania Hormuthia Gyldenia Ceraskia Merxia Lundia Atossa Nauheima Adele Baumeia Tauris Coppelia Juliana Annika Kapteynia Barnardiana Adriana Fanny Lalage Sisigambis Anastasia Tanina Henrika Wolfiana Lindemannia Academia Petropolitana Stateira Karin Monica Burnhamia Olivia Jole Schwarzschilda Seraphina Valborg Zenobia Arabella Kerstin Nicolaia Leontina Naema Lipperta Agnia Inna Ara Altona Zeissia Wladilena Nansenia Frostia Newcombia Backlunda Glasenappia ElDjezair Bouzareah Irsina Aida Franzia Benkoela Aase Zubaida Fatme Kovacia Lova Mellena Manto Amneris Holda Mechthild Rotraut Nymphe Scott Walkure Mildred Ricarda Herbe Athene Swetlana Maiterania Priamus Ulrike Washingtonia Alinda Parysatis Erynia Waltraut Gunhild Seeligeria Leopoldina Erda Helio Sphinx Lysistrata Hildegard Jokaste Rosalinde Brunsia Probitas Nealley Rockefellia Universitas Repsolda Rhoda Buda Ulla Anneliese Agamemnon Maritima Otila Palisna Cosette America Lyka Itha Ilsebill Rogeria Jovita Schlutia Herluga Toni Alphonsina Imhilde Ratisbona Hildrun Algunde Westphalia Whittemora Hooveria Susi Thuringia Clivia Kunigunde Bethgea Chlosinde Isberga Kordula Murray Romilda Begonia Hidalgo Barcelona Poesia Monterosa Jucunda Hel Ahrensa Gaspra Caia Painleva Li Alstede Elisa Camelia Asplinda Arne Birgit Gunne Aslog Iduberga Subamara Angelica Muschi Helionape Petunia Leocadia Primula Alsatia Cohnia Aralia Lioba Perseverantia Benjamina Philippa Aidamina Ilsewa Anacostia Martina Franklina Gunila Gretia Rosina Amelia Wallia Appela Schwassmannia Yerkes McDonalda Swasey Moultona Otthild Sternberga Hilaritas Priska Bodea Zachia Piazzia Gaussia Olbersia Lilofee Belopolskya Araga Lagrangea Pawlowia Lapaz Sirene(Lost) Marlene Laodamia Sarema Tombecka Semphyra Christa Antira Jacqueline Arnolda Strackea Arcadia(Lost) Flammario Olympiada Thomana Hale Riema Ingrid(Lost) Aesculapia Lydina LaPlata Vitja Artica Pafuri Simona Mozartia Amata Ganymed Davidweilla(Lost) Tuckia Sonneberga Klumpkea Asta Amazone Beate Teutonia Michela Edwin Geisha Feodosia Gotho Meta Merope Belgica Vigdis Forsytia Tynka Azalea Wanda Grubba Mussorgskia Magnolia Paeonia Ljuba Aquilegia Aesthusa Amundsenia Lobelia Lunaria Nofretete Planckia Tunica Brita Malva Gellivara Beljawskya Helina Viola Campanula Mentha Mimosa Orchis Reseda Pirola Salvia Tamariwa Amaryllis Nata Arabis Mitaka Tama Sumida Spiraea Lilium Freda Siberia Tulipa Reunerta Vicia Hakone Figneria Arnica Clematis Pepita Sequoia Syringa Fragaria Cydonia Lictoria Demeter Tata Jaroslawa Reinmuthia Polonia Katja Lorraine Sabauda Catrionia Reginita Hanskya Eubdea Cannonia Natascha Neith Shapleya Stroobantia China Otero Mimi Astrid Neuimina Neujmina Porzia Hollandia Lugduna Kepler Colchis Mercedes Raissa Attica Atami Crimea Bohmia Aetolia Odysseus Oda Robelmonte Biarmia Stavropolis Rarahu Volga Achaia Ithaca Pawona Wallenbergia Astronomia Aenna Kira Arabia Luda Granada Illyria Thessalia Larissa Saga Kobolda Imprinetta Sakuntala Dubiago Brandia Alwine Siva Rusthawelia Aneas Anchises Marmara Margo Lucidor Gonnessia Irmela Mally Rita Lilith Ilona Jutta Gaea Nikko Turnera Afra Gothlandia Terentia Pelagia Alfaterna Prisma Africa Aletta Orangia Shedba Rhodesia Atlantis(Lost) Geldonia Imperatrix Strenua Marina Nanna Renzia Ebella Numerowia Ostenia Troilus Pumma Morosovia Bressole Francette Algeria Richilde Boyer Askania Maximiliana Aster Britta Crocus Amor Tina Neckar Fantasia Ariane Golia Geranium Scabiosa Tilia(Lost) Riceia Auricula Cortusa Kobresia Elyna Schorria Thais Genevieve Predappia Queteleta Centenaria Dysona Zambesia Pamela Deira Calvinia Chaka Memoria Jugurtha Rutherfordia Galanthus Hedera Celestia Frisia Erfordia Schilowa Normannia Mora Sicilia Ogyalla Walhalla Legia Sniadeckia Varsavia Letaba Schweikarda Tone Geertruida Libya Rollandia Datura Isergina Gefion Helma Delportia Cimbria Ucclia Dolores Kenya Uganda Baillauda Jeanne Utopia Komsomolia Latvia Julietta Banachiewic Lorcia Santa Kutaissi Albertine Phryne Luce Sonja Antwerpia Deflotte Andree Quadea Nocturna Mertona Marcelle Yvonne Werra Luthera Arosa Pongola Scythia Cimmeria Halleria Hyperboria Villigera Knopfia Vassar Berna Paula Bronislawa Kasan Silvretta Nerina Disa Impala Majuba Coppernicus Tugela Knysna Inanda Losaka Namaqua Devota Eliane Spiridonia Solvejg Marconia Cevenola Lundmarka Demoulina Zeelandia Gerarda Duponta Desagneauxa Yvette Edmee Brabantia Nicole Caubeta Potomac Gotha Patria Michel Bechuana Rosselia Uzbekistania Wawel Maartje Botha Magoeba Nyanza Khama Gaika Prieska Tarka Leuschneria Griqua Herberta Safara Henyey Piccolo 1934NA Numidia Ostanina Hella(Lost) Resi Haremari Cincinatti Isora Alfreda Michelle Roberbauxa Leonce Lomonossova Volodia Danubia Gerti Limburgia Kniertje Gelria Storeria Kama Aphrodite Onnie Abastumani Carelia Pierre Sofala Algoa Aribeda Outeniqua Umtata Donnera Teneriffa Tirela Lavonne Eri Idelsonia Ajax Sibelius Komppa Lindelof Trusanda Isko Margret Brauna Lagrula Roucarie Jerome Malautra Renauxa Walinskia Fayeta Danzig Radcliffe Esperanto Stromgrenia Jose Sundmania Tuorla 1937GF Ruvuma Mombasa Pemba 1937NK 1937OB Ethiopia Geramtina Margot Garlena 1936YA Diomedes Wendeline Vogtia Rostia Bolyai Corvina Ruppina 1938AE Konkolya Sillanpaa Utra Lindbladia 1938DO Raimonda Grano 1938DZ Fennia Kalevala Mitchella 1937NG Ankara Mineura Magnya Haltia Jean-Jacques Zamenhof Nordenmarkia Armisticia Autonoma Mundleria Mashona Zomba Linzia Carla Tornio Muonio Dunas Beira Yalta Cox Bonsdorffia Vihuri Inkeri Aunus Tubingia Sebastiana Nakoila Postrema Isa Marilyn Boda Aura 1939GC Limpopo Balduinus Oppolzer Sigrid Savo Helsinki Turku Tampere Lahti Pori Jyvaskyla Baade Arenda Kuopio Lappeenrant Koranna Xosa Vaasa Kemi Esclangona Charlois Dalera Oulu 1940EB Ricouxa 1936VG Henry Beograd Rovaniemi Kajaani Imatra Seinajoki Kokkola Pieksamaki Joensuu Savonlinna Mikkeli Malquista Conrada Oterma Rantaseppa Hartmut Inari Saimaa Nasi Paijanne Pielinen 1940QA 1940RF(Lost) Borrelly Kevola Estonia Schalen Bourgeois Vinterhansenia Thernoe 1941SG1 1929CZ Palomaa Mikko Tito Argelander Bessel Bauersfelda Yugoslavia Dejan Wingolfia Roehla Jarnefelt Kustaanheimo Strattonia Fricke Gondolatsch Noel Srbija Lemaitre Icarus Alikoski Aisleen Evita Brunonia 1950FJ Posnania Vaisala Meyer Winifred Fabiola Reiss Kirkwood Herrick Betulia Abanderada Martir Antilochus Fuji Union Thiele Kahrstedt Descamisada Fanatica Tsiolkovskaja Baize Mathieu Fagnes Danjon 1930ME 1951EV Laugier Paloque Giomus Vyssotsky Patry Indiana Neva 1931FH 1936GA=68KP Jekhovsky Mavis 1951RZ Brenda Mirnaya Beyer Hirose Smiley Goldschmidt Bardwell Filipoff Alschmitt Dawn Ueta Geographos Druzhba Chacornac Vivian Rabe TheNorc Sadeya Ivar Strobel Pecker Milet Kopff Siebohme Chimay 1935QP Bohrmann Porter Swings 1912OX Bower 1951QA 1935OJ Hill Brown Rafita Waterfield Rosseland Menelaus Shajna Fabre Heckmann 1936HD 1933UE1 Yakhontovia Bojeva 1929WG Suomi Roemera Innes Punkaharju Wood Granule Hoffman VanDenBos 1929CD Gaby VanGent Pels Hanna Dagmar Minnaert Chaika 1935BD VanHouten Groeneveld Simonida 1939LC TychoBrahe Hveen Nevanlisna 1942CH 1948WE Karel 1950SL 1951QF Toro Desitter Glarona 1951EQ Floris-Jan 1948VB Oort Subbotina Hertzsprung Kaiser 1941UO 1939FF 1940RM 1934CS 1941QD 1940QC 1953NJ 1924SH Barry Wachmann 1941SL1 Dieckvoss 1932RL 1929XA Ukraina 1941UF 1935BB 1935KC Bancilhon SY 1938GK Peter 1954AC 1942RX Jens Niels Wells 1938EG 1936FX 1932DC Crao Hoffmeister 1965BA Goethe-Link Beryl 1936UA Smuts Heike Silke Zhongolovich 1948BRJ Floirac Severny 1930SP Meyermann 1939UA Giclas Schaifers Schmidt Harriet Ferguson Brouwer Wright Mauderli Telamon Eckert Herget 1930OK 1934JM Cunningham Lorbach Giacobini 1939FC 1942DK Kienle Sandia Edmondson Russell Williams Cosghall Wrubel Slipher Lampland Appenzella 1966QP Schlesinger Makover Gagarin Rumpelstilz Kulikov Zimmerwald Kuiper Gehrels Alfven 1950LZ Kippes VanBiesbroeck Schneller 1935FJ 1935MG Wurm 1948TL 1950SK Kiess Dobrovolsky Volkov Patsayev Reni Zoya Finsen Woltjer Riga Schaumasse Watts Koussevitsky Aguilar 1963UR=52SP ZhangHeng Zwicky Chebotarev Dirikis 1971LC=27EB Slovakia Bellerophon Prometheus Epimetheus Bruwer Gilgamesh Imhotep Bach Beethoven 1936BD 1971BG Brahms Laputa Lohmann 1969UN Waterman Gliese Haworth Klare Miller Atkinson Kashirina Dawson Pogson Nicholson Mrkos Shmakova 1969QP Gajdariya Komarov Osita Ursa Ragazza Hus Masaryk Hynek Jarmila Susilva Helewalda Bengt Stobbe 1972QN=33QD Kresak Kohoutek Lacroute 1955GA=37WH 1957XE=30YP Skvortsov Korolev Ruzena Parchomemko Lobachevski Kovalevskay Barbarossa Komensky Apollo Antinous Daedalus Cerberus Sisyphus Deiphobus Thersites Philoctetes Glaukos Astyanax Helenos Agenor Kacivelia 1969QQ Napolitania Marsden 33QC=72TO7 35UN=72RS1 McCrosky Shao 41UJ=72RP1 42XA=57YM 1943EB1 Herero Lowell 50TD=70DA ZuChong-Zhi Pakhmutova Konoshenkova Gondola Lucienne Jakoba Haffner Larink Beer Hind Cowell Crommelin Katyusha Moravia Shaposhnikov Adzhimushkaj Massevitch Ambartsumian Naef Rudneva Pobeda Alekhin Mikhailov Schubart 6534PL=68HQ Sekanina 70EU=30SB1 Quetzalcoat 1953RA Cuyo 1968UA Clemence Sarmiento Pala Zulu 64TO2=4011 69BA=4032P 34RY=70KH 35JA=74HB 36FP=30XN 38SO=69PA 39BS=68BH Lucifer 60QB=57TK 58DD1=71UB Tinchen Jeffers Lucerna Lugarno Lucarno Lausanna Loretta Whipple Wild Jablunka Anteros Gunther 30OL=34NL+ 31PH=52PB+ 1935EA 35GL=35JL+ 36NE=40RK+ Wempe Lick 35ND=40CQ+ 29VC=29WD+ 52PH=57QB 49XN=51EP1+ Artek Angara 65UN=70SB+ Karbyshev Guisan Dufour Dunant Bezovec 33UA12007PL 56TN=2521PL 51GJ=2552PL Menzel Mehltretter 35CG=52HW3 49BF=54ER Hagihara YiXing 68OA=69VV1 1968OE Pikelner Kaverin Shura 52WC=71LD 2006PL71SQ3 Tezcatlipoca Midas Cline Bok 1926TN73SE3 Hopmann 1935SV173SA 1952RH Delores 1944DL71SJ2 1956EE73QM 1967JL71SU2 1968OD 1968OH1 1939RN61TE Hajek Adams Leverrier Titius Hirayama Herschel Einstein Euler 1941BH73AG1 Lexell Hencke Konstitutsiya 1941SW170QD 1938SV73SV4 Voloshina Chebyshev Veteraniya GuoShuo-Jing 1936PL71UH4 Vasilevskis Kachuevskaya Heinemann Wesson Schuster 35SX1=75ND 36FR=73EP1 Poincare West Asaph 52UP=38WP 35EQ=53LG Cottrell 53VQ1=64VR1 1968OB1 69RB=71BX2 Belyaev Bam Ethel 53FY=73CA 41SQ=73EE Stearns Sheragul 1973UB 1973WF Payne-Gaposchkin 72XP=74HA 73AP3=2523P 71BQ=4633PL 36TH=74SE1 1950VE 44DJ=73AE 34RK=76QS 1971UA1 Dwornik 1973SH Francis Chang 28TD=76UN 28RW=76UO 73FG14097PL 1974DB Nancy Rosemary 38BH=78AO 1963UA Chiron Anza Aten Bacchus Thomsen 73YR259RN 75NZ34LB Aksnes Dangreen 75TT355FT 74RB264TQ 75XD371QS 75EL73QE2 72TU674DK Shoemaker 1974VA Levin 1974YA 1975AD Jacchia 76DG55SH1 76DH46LA 74MB=7588PL Smither 1935CK 1965YA 1966BC 1975YC 1976DJ 1977VF Mizuho 1941HO 1969UP 1971HX 1971TC2 73SS26036PL 1939UC 1953PV 1972QE Opik Ra-Shalom Adonis 1975YA 1960FL30XM 1963PD55HW 1976DA 1936UF62PN 1941VA48LJ 1948TR135FN 1950TH232PA 1962RD55MA 1969LG28SO 1972NP62RA 1972RJ258AA 1976HA53GZ 1976UD52HZ3 1976UM49KP 1978AC36VJ 1978PB907CC
Poetry on the Rocks
There’s no escaping the need for human beings to name the things they find. Everything, it seems, that can be named should be named. So too with the asteroids, and although today it might seem an inward-looking and purely esoteric exercise to catalogue the minor planets, in future years it may well be appreciated as a wholly practical groundworking endeavour. Asteroids may well be unknown and unnoticed by most of us now, but one day, if people decide to start moving out through the Solar System, they will need to know how to avoid the traffic.
Biologists classify insects by species; astronomers classify objects by name. Astronomers acknowledge that each asteroid has its own orbital path, its own inclination, rotational period, colour, texture and shape. When an asteroid has been discovered, it gets a preliminary designation which is made up of the year of discovery followed by two letters, the first indicating the half month of observation (excepting the letters I and Z), and the second being the order of discovery within that half month. When all two-letter combinations have been used, numbers are added. So, for example, asteroid 1929CZ was discovered in the first half of February 1929, and was the 24th object discovered during that half month.
A permanent number is assigned the asteroid if and when it is found again and confirmed by someone else who is using the discoverer’s original measurements. After this, the discoverer may name the asteroid. Asteroids are referred to by both permanent number and name, such as 130 Elektra. At first, the custom was to name the asteroids after feminine mythological and literary characters; hence we have, for example,
This noble and gentlemanly method was quite successful until it became apparent that there were more asteroids than mythological characters. An effort was then made to introduce place names and male names in feminine form; hence we have
Next, the feminine form was gradually dropped and asteroids began to be named after scientists and, quite often, after the very blokes who discovered them:
And now, as bewailed by Gehrels (who, incidentally, had asteroid 1777 named after him in 1960), “the naming of asteroids has become messy because names suggested in the past by discoverers to recognize pets, friends and political heroes have been accepted” (1979, p. 14). And so we have
The list of named asteroids can and should replace baby name books. Imagine a world with people named Adzhimushkaj (1903) or Nocturna (1298) or Tezcatlipoca (1980). But amongst the asteroids you can also find familiar names. I found my maternal grandmother, my mother and both my sisters:
I also found my mother-in-law, my wife and her sister:
And up there amongst the asteroids is a name for many people to claim: 1203 Nanna.
Orbiting the Sun is an enormous resource of character and place names for novels or films. Imagine a story set in southern Arabis, where our main characters Wrubel and Arenda are enjoying lunch at the Giacobini trattoria. Suddenly,
Fanatica burst through the doors wielding a broken coffee cup.
Xosa the waiter was alarmed. He sprinted towards the kitchen. “Nordenmarkia! Aunus!” he yelled, “forget about the Bok salad, I need help!”
Wrubel turned pale. “Fanatica?” he whispered, weakly.
“You unconscionable turd,” growled Fanatica, staring darkly at Wrubel. “I knew I’d find you here. I’ve driven all the way from Delportia and what do I find?” She slowly raised an accusatory finger and pointed at Arenda.
Just then, Aunus raced into the dining room from the kitchen, armed with a cleaver.
And for astronomers with the need to pay homage to their heroes, asteroids can be awarded a special name. Six of my foreign idols in the realms of science and the arts have been honoured in this way:
2669 Shostakovich Dmitri Shostakovich, Russian composer
1906 – 1975
5020 Asimov Isaac Asimov, U.S. science and science fiction writer
1920 – 1992
3834 Zappafrank Frank Zappa, U.S. composer & musician
1940 – 1993
2709 Sagan Carl Sagan, U.S. astronomer and science writer 1934 – 1996
10221 Kubrick Stanley Kubrick, U.S. filmmaker
1928 - 1999
4149 Harrison George Harrison, U.K. composer & musician
1942 - 2001
All these names are far more attractive than the preliminary designations such as 1972RJ258AA and 1976HA53GZ. To give an asteroid a name is to acknowledge its unique physical identity and its existence as a real object which joins the Earth and the planets in orbit around the Sun. For astronomers it is a way of labelling a discovery and satisfying the whim to be a namer of things, just as it is satisfying to name pet fish and leisure boats.
But once they have been named . . . what then?
An Asteroid Belt
Now that your interest and appetite has been aroused, you’re probably wondering what some of the asteroids look like. Luckily, spacecraft from NASA and the European Space Agency have flown past a number of asteroids, giving beautiful pictures which excite the imagination. All photos are from NASA.
Ida & Dactyl
Asteroid 243 Ida was photographed by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 1993. Astronomers were thrilled to find that Ida has a tiny satellite – named Dactyl – which is the tiny object at right. The photo was taken from a distance of 10,000km. Ida measures 56km long, and they think Dactyl is around 1.5km wide.
At right is asteroid 433 Eros, shadowed strangely due to its irregular shape. In February 2001 the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft (NEAR) touched down on the surface of Eros, giving astronomers and geologists plenty of work to get on with.
Here are several images of 216 Kleopatra, an asteroid shaped remarkably like a dog’s bone. These are radar and computer generated images from the Arecibo Radio Telescope, taken when Kleopatra was 171 million km away.
Asteroid 2669 Shostakovich lies squarely within the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA’s Near Earth Object Program keeps track of most of the known asteroids, and on their website you can enter the name of an asteroid and see its orbit and current whereabouts. On June 6th, Shostakovich was at the opposite side of the Sun in relation to Earth, and was 3.131 Astronomical Units (AU) away – or 470 million kilometres away.
What is Sedna? This planetoid made the news earlier this year. It’s not really an asteroid because it’s too big (estimated to measure 1700km in diameter) and it’s far, far beyond Pluto and the realm of the asteroids, currently being a preposterous 13 billion km away. The Hubble Space Telescope took this image of Sedna, which astronomers think may be part of the Oort Cloud, a ludicrously distant mass of objects which form a spherical envelope around the Solar System. They say the Oort Cloud extends halfway to the nearest star.
In popular culture, asteroids and comets have often been depicted as randomly travelling, blindly evil objects which conveniently appear from on high to threaten the human race. There is a theory that an asteroid or comet collided with the Earth a few hundred million years ago and made the dinosaurs extinct. No wonder Hollywood has produced movies such as When Worlds Collide, Deep Impact, Armageddon and Starship Troopers, all which deal with cosmic collisions.
Asteroids and their brethren have been seen as another kind of natural disaster - pitiless and indiscriminate, like earthquakes or floods. The intrigue of asteroids is that they come from without, not within. The difference is: When an asteroid threatens Earth, we’re all stuffed.
Is there any actual risk of a future collision which could wipe us out? Perhaps comets are more risky; their orbits are more erratic than those of asteroids, and as smaller bodies they are more succeptible to gravitational perturbations from the Sun and planets. As far as asteroids are concerned, there are a number which cross Earth’s orbit, but over time there has been a kind of gravitational levelling which means that Earth will most likely avoid being hit. In any case, NASA’s Near Earth Object Program is constantly monitoring the asteroids, and hopefully we’ll be given plenty of warning if an asteroid is coming too close. All those movies will be sure to give us handy hints on how to survive. I particularly like the “space ark” concept behind When Worlds Collide. All we will need is a modern Noah to lead the way.
I prefer a more benign view of asteroids. They’re up there, over our heads in a million pieces, slowly spinning and warming themselves in sunlight. Huge potatoes, cratered stones, slender chunks. Specks of light, stellar in appearance, but moving steadily across the background of night. A rich field of splendid discovery; a taxonomic delight; a paradise for avid namers. Fragmentary leftovers of a constructed Solar System, they are a joyful abundance of stuff, things and palpable places, keeping us company in our tiny corner of the Universe.
These are the asteroids.
Sources & Further Reading
Audouze, Jean & Israel, Guy. (1985). The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy. Cambridge University Press.
Garlick, Mark A. (2002). The Story of the Solar System. Cambridge University Press.
Gehrels, Tom (ed.) (1979). Asteroids. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press.
Harvard University Minor Planet Listing: http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/lists/MPNames.html
NASA Asteroid Webpage: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/planets/asteroidpage.html
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Webpage: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/
NASA Near Earth Object Program Webpage: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Mission website: http://near.jhuapl.edu/
Von Braun, Wernher & Ordway, Frederick I. (1979). New Worlds: Discoveries from Our Solar System. New York: Doubleday.
Whittingham, Richard. (1971). Astronomy. Northbrook, Illinois: Hubbard Press.
Here is an excerpt from the TRIAD asteroid listing, showing asteroid number, name and osculating orbital elements. This was my source for the Litany.
Scanned from Gehrels (1979).
Here is the first draft of the poem which appears as the Second Fragment. I wrote this during a few spare minutes I had on teaching rounds at Ringwood North Primary.
Number IV June 2004
An Electronic Romance for Authentic Human Beings
Copyright (c) 2004
Writer and Editor: Damian P. Marley
Life Members: R. L. and H. D. M. Marley
Published by 5A Books, a Division of 5A Prod Ltd
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