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Celestial Objects Named After Indonesians

Farah Fitriani Faruq
Farah Fitriani Faruq
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Celestial Objects Named After Indonesians
Four celestial objects have been named after former heads of Indonesia’s Bosscha Observatory, providing new additions to the list of heavenly bodies with Indonesian appellations. The objects, identified only by numbers as asteroids 12176, 12177, 12178, 12179 since they were discovered 33 years ago, are now officially recognized by the international astronomic community as 12176 Hidayat, 12177 Raharto, 12178 Dhani and 12179 Taufiq. Hakim Luthfi Malasan, the current head of the Bosscha Observatory in Lembang, Bandung, said he received an e-mail earlier this week from the International Astronomical Union, the highest authority on astronomical science, informing him about the naming of the asteroids. He said the IAU had approved naming the asteroids after the four past observatory directors in November 2010. “This is a reward for Indonesian astronomers. It is also a gesture of appreciation to the observatory,” Hakim said in an interview this week. He said it was the first time that Indonesians who had headed the observatory had received the honor, although two other former observatory directors, Gale Bruno van Albada and The Pik Sin, who were both Dutch citizens, had their names immortalized as asteroids 2019 van Albada and 5408. The asteroid 12176 Hidayat is named after Bambang Hidayat, who was the observatory’s head from 1968 to 1999. The IAU lauded him as “an active promoter of astronomy in Indonesia, known for his work on visual binaries and H-emission-line stars.” He also served as vice-president of the IAU from 1994 to 2000. The second asteroid, 12177 Raharto, is named after Moedji Raharto, a senior lecturer and expert on galactic structure at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). He served as director of Bosscha Observatory from 2000 to 2003. Asteroid 12178 Dhani is named for Indonesian astronomer Herdiwijaya Dhani. He is an expert on solar physics and is known for his work on binary stars, solar magnetic activity and its influence on weather and climate. He led the observatory from 2004 to 2005. The last asteroid named after one of Bosscha’s former heads,  12179 Taufiq, honors Taufiq Hidayat, who was director of the observatory from 2006-2009. He is an associate professor at ITB’s astronomy department best known for his work on the solar system and extra solar transits, as well as his battle again urbanization around the observatory. The observatory has had 12 directors since it was established in 1923. The four asteroids were first sighted on the Main Belt area between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, on Oct. 16, 1977, by C. J. van Houten, I. van Houten-Groeneveld and T. Gehrels at Palomar Observatory in San Diego. Budi Dermawan, an expert in asteroids from ITB, said the main responsibility for designating and naming newly observed minor planets or asteroids lies with the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature, which assigns provisional designations using the year when the asteroid is discovered and the sequential order of discovery within that year. “Before getting to the next phase of an asteroid listing, more sightings of a new asteroid are needed to make sure that it is indeed a new one and not a rediscovery of a minor planetoid which had been discovered before but was lost in orbit for some time,” Budi said. If the number of regular sightings is enough to calculate an orbit, the asteroid is assigned a sequential number as its designation. The discoverer could propose a name for the asteroid after it is assigned a numeric designation. After publication in the Minor Planet Circular, with a brief citation of why the asteroid is named as such, the name becomes official. According to Budi, there are at least 11 other asteroids with Indonesian names, including 754 Malabar; named after the observatory's neighboring Malabar Mountain; 772 Tanete, named after a location in South Sulawesi; and 2307 Garuda. Given the international esteem extended  the country’s astronomers, Hakim said it was ironic they did not receive much appreciation from their own countrymen. He said that he hoped this recognition would serve as an appeal to the government and other stakeholders about the importance of the observatory’s work. Hakim said light pollution from homes and businesses encroaching on Bosscha’s surrounding were interfering with their telescopic observations. He said there is actually a regional bylaw which states that the area within a two kilometers radius around the observatory should be free of any building or lights, but the bylaw was rarely enforced. “The encroachment is making our location unsuitable for celestial observation because the sky is no longer dark enough,” Hakim said. News Source : The Jakarta Globe Photo Source : thebooksmugglers

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