Deccan Chronicle

IAU Names Minor Planet After First Indian Meteor Astronomer Aswin Sekhar

Deccan Chronicle.| Shashank Tripathi

Published on: June 27, 2023 | Updated on: June 27, 2023
Indian astronomer Aswin Sekhar

Indian astronomer Aswin Sekhar

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has honoured Indian astronomer Aswin Sekhar by naming a minor planet after him. The honour was conferred on him at the 2023 edition of Asteroids Comets Meteors Conference which took place in Arizona on June 21, 2023. Only five Indians have been conferred this honour before him. These are Nobel laureates CV Raman & Subramanya Chandrasekhar; the great mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan; prominent physicist & astronomer Dr. Vikram Sarabhai; great astronomer & past president of IAU Manali Kallat Vainu Bappu, co-discoverer of the Wilson-Bappu Effect.

'IAU' official citation reads "Aswin Sekhar (b. 1985) is the first professional meteor astronomer from India in modern times. He has made important contributions to the field of meteors in meteoroid stream dynamics, particularly in the effects of relativity and resonances in meteoroid streams."

Asteroids are also referred as minor planets. These small celestial bodies within the solar system that orbit the Sun are rocky, airless remnants from the initial formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. They are smaller than eight major planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) but bigger than meteoroids.

There are two naming systems followed for naming Minor Planets – ceremonial and non-ceremonial. Ceremonial naming is similar to award of honorary doctorates to celebrities. In this, the astronomer who discovers the celestial body can propose his choice of name for it to IAU Small Body Nomenclature Committee which then determines whether the proposed person deserves the honour and confirms the name basis its assessment.

Examples of ceremonial naming system are Minor planets named after Tagore, Gandhi, Pandit Jasraj, Vishwanathan Anand and Kailash Satyarthi.

Non-ceremonial naming system is intended to honour scientists for outstanding work in their respective fields. Top scientists have to nominate a name and then justify it. After it, IAU Samll Body Nomenclature Committee verifies and approves it. Ashwin’s case is of the non-ceremonial nomenclature. The minor planet named after Aswin will now be known as (33928) Aswinsekhar = 2000LJ27.

Aswin is currently affiliated with the Paris Observatory which comes under the French government's ministry of science, technology and education.

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