Four asteroids are named after three Jesuits and one Pope

Four asteroids will henceforth be named after three Jesuits and one pope. The celestial bodies identified by the numbers 562971, 551878, 565184 will bear the names of Jesuits Johann Hagen, Bill Steger and Robert Janusch respectively.

Inese Steinert – Vatican

Asteroid 560974, on the other hand, is named after Ugo Boncompagni, who is known as Pope Gregory XIII. He has gone down in history with the reform of the calendar, as well as with the beginning of the tradition of Church astronomers and observatories. The three Jesuit fathers mentioned above are also associated with astronomy. The Austrian Johann Hagen (1847–1930) was the first director of the Vatican Observatory, who served in this position from 1906 to 1930. Bill Steger (1943-2014) was also a space explorer and theologian. In 2014, he crossed the threshold of eternity, but before that he worked at the Vatican-owned Tucson Observatory in the United States. Robert Januš, together with other colleagues, currently works at the Vatican observatory “Specola Vaticana”.

There are more than 30 asteroids in the universe named after Jesuits. Among them is Christopher Clavius, who was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII (1501, or 1502-1585) to work on the new calendar we know today as the “Gregorian” calendar. Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671) developed the lunar nomenclature system that is still used today.

Since the Jesuits have been intensive travelers since earlier centuries, some asteroids, along with their own names and identification number, also bear the names of the countries from which they came or with which their activities are most closely associated. This category includes ‘Philippines 4866 Badiño’, ‘Paraguay 6438 Suarez’, ‘China 31124 Slavicek’, ‘Democratic Republic of Congo 23443 Kikwaya’ and ‘Argentina 2490 Bussolini’. The names of Richard Boyle, Corbally, Coyne, Consolmagno, Kikwaya and Macke of the Vatican observatory’s Specola Vaticana are also immortalized in the bodies found in the sky.

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According to the International Astronomical Union, naming an asteroid or minor planet can sometimes take decades. When a celestial body is discovered, it is given a tentative name based on the date of discovery. After the object has been observed at least four times as it approaches the earth and its orbit has been determined so that the position of the object can be known with sufficient certainty in the future, the Minor Planet Center assigns it a definitive number. Consequently, the moment comes when you can also choose a name for the object. There are certain rules in choosing a word. So, for example, it is not allowed to give an asteroid or a small planet the names of animals – pets, nor names of a commercial nature. Also, the newly discovered object is not allowed to be named after politicians or military personnel, as well as to immortalize an event related to politics or military activities in its name, if 100 years have not yet passed after the death of the specific person or event.

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