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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 20:27 GMT 21:27 UK
Cosmic tribute to terror victims
Solidarity Klet
Solidarity, also known as asteroid 1980 PV1
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Astronomers have named three asteroids in honour of the victims of the 11 September hijack attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.


...in the hope that terrorism will be countered with justice for all, not with revenge

International Astronomical Union
The names given are Compassion, Solidarity and Magnanimity.

They were chosen "to represent some of the most basic and universal human values," say officials.

According to astronomers, it is a way for the international scientific community to mark their sorrow and place a symbol of the best aspects of humanity in the sky.

'Abhorring the tragedy'

The decision to name the asteroids was made unanimously by the 13 members of the International Astronomical Union's Committee (IAU) for Small Body Nomenclature.

Ticha BBC
Jana Ticha: It is necessary to eliminate terrorism from the world
"The sentiments reflect the feelings of all the members of the committee, representing many different countries," Brian Marsden, the body's secretary, told BBC News Online.

The three asteroids were discovered by observatories on different continents and "are intended as a positive statement abhorring the tragedy that occurred on a fourth," according to the IAU.

Compassion, also known as asteroid 1980 DN, was discovered in 1980, at the Klet Observatory in the Czech Republic.

'Deep sympathy'

Its director, Jana Ticha, told us: "This minor planet, discovered at Klet, belongs to the main-belt asteroids, orbits the Sun once per 5.61 years and has a diameter about 7-15 kilometres (4.3-9.3 miles)."

It is about the size of Manhattan Island.

She added: "For me, as a Czech astronomer, it is a special astronomical opportunity to say that we are against such terrorist attacks, to express my deep sympathy to all people who have been hit directly or indirectly by this barbarism, and that it is necessary to eliminate terrorism from the world."

Solidarity, also known as asteroid 1980 PV1, was discovered in 1980 at the European Southern Observatory in South America.

'Justice for all'

Magnanimity, also known as asteroid 1980 TE7, was discovered by the Purple Mountain Observatory in 1980. The IAU's citation said: "To honor the magnanimity of people around the world in dealing with terrorist attacks like those on New York and Washington, in the hope that terrorism will be countered with justice for all, not with revenge."

Marsden said the IAU took care to find three asteroids that had been discovered and numbered consecutively and that were found by researchers outside the United States.

It was IAU committee member Richard West, of the European Southern Observatory, who proposed the idea of naming the asteroids just three days after the attacks. West also put forward the names - on which the committee has now agreed.

There are 29,074 known asteroids, of which only 8,830 have been named. On average, a hundred a month are given names.

See also:

26 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Asteroid's mystery 'blue ponds'
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