Asteroid Hunter & Professor at Olin College

Asteroid Names

As a hobby, I’m interested in asteroid names. Names are usually submitted by the discoverer of an asteroid to the International Astronomical Union, where a panel of distinguished scientists makes the final naming decisions. Rules govern what names can be used, though they have changed over time.

Many asteroids are named after noteworthy individuals, such as 5102 Benfranklin or 95962 Copito, an albino gorilla. Some are whimsical, such as 24680 Alleven and 13579 Allodd, or funny, like 88705 Potato. 6510 Tarry is a grateful tribute. 16232 Chijagerbs is a romantic gesture. Many are named after astronomers, including my team members 234750 Amymainzer, 19494 Gerbs, 12309 Tommygrav, 8255 Masiero, 8995 Rachelstevenson, 8796 Sonnett, 10282 Emilykramer, and myself, 8801 Nugent.

While researching asteroid names, I noticed a dearth of asteroids named after women and people of color, and made suggestions to the NEOWISE team. Several of these names have been approved (see list below), and additional names are pending approval. I’m very happy to be part of this process, and am thrilled that these remarkable people have been honored in this way.




NEOWISE image of (8801) Nugent. Image stacked by Rachel Stevenson.

NEOWISE image of (8801) Nugent. Image stacked by Rachel Stevenson.