asteroid plimpton


There’s something special about naming a celestial body, putting your thumbprint in the heavens up there with Jupiter and Mars and the Horsehead Nebula. The idea speaks to our desire for immortality–attaching a name to something that, if not quite eternal, will last far longer than anyone will be around to remember. The world of commerce has figured this out, of course. Various services have arisen that claim to put your name on a star for a fee. Unfortunately, as nice as it sounds, these names don’t count: You pay your money and get a certificate, but it isn’t recognized by the only organization that actually matters, the International Astronomical Union. So what if you really do want to name a piece of the sky? Is there a way to name a newly discovered star, or planet, or comet–maybe not after yourself, but maybe after someone you admire?

more from Samuel Arbesman at The Boston Globe here.