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Wednesday, April 14, 1999 Published at 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK


Sci/Tech

The name's Bond, James Bond

Asteroid 9007 captured on film

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Czech astronomers have named a minor planet they discovered in 1983 after Her Majesty's Secret Agent 007 - James Bond.

Giving a minor planet a name is one of the privileges given to those astronomers who find them. Mostly, these objects are a few miles across and orbit the Sun in-between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

When a newly-discovered minor planet has been observed several times, and an orbit for it has been well established, it is given a number.

At present, there are 10,448 numbered minor planets of which 7,000 have been officially named.

According to Brian Marsden of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard there are rules about choosing names.

Naming rules

No military or political names are allowed until at least 100 years after the event or death of the person concerned.

No unpronounceable names or those that are obscene or in bad taste. None must be too similar to existing names and none must be longer than 16 characters.

Following these guidelines, 223 minor planets have just received names - a record.

They include asteroid 9007 which according to its discoverers at the Klet observatory in the Czech republic, could only be called James Bond.

Minor planets have also just been named after the writers Iris Murdoch and Arthur Ransome, as well as painters Constable, Holbein and Gainsboroug.

Star gazing

There is also Minor Planet DENI which stands for the Department for Education in Northern Ireland.

But perhaps the most touching name given to a minor planet is 1992 QJ Lewispearce.

Lewis Percival Pearce was born at Nedlands, Western Australia on 23 January this year.

He suffered oxygen deprivation during birth and never regained consciousness.

Twelve days later, he died but not without sharing some experiences with his parents. One of them was observing the stars with his dad, Andrew Pearce.





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Naming Minor Planets

The name's Bond, James Bond

Klet Observatory


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