Management of Measurement Constructs

Analytical Techniques, April 30, 2008

Who Names the Asteroids Anyway?


Unintentional Astronomer Channelers
(But Don't Tell Them!)

By guest astrologer Jacob Schwartz, PhD,

Asteroids are named only by astronomers and their designated colleagues. The honor, or the responsibility, to name an asteroid is usually given to the discoverer. The astronomer usually ascribes the name to colleagues, friends, and family, with a minority of names given to famous artisans, historical and mythical figures, plants and animals, and places like cities, rivers, mountains, nations and continents. Sometimes, names are awarded to significant donors --so just endow an observatory and wait a few decades! One donor about a century ago supported several astronomers' expedition to the South Pacific to observe a solar eclipse, and she was awarded the honor of naming an asteroid.

The names cannot be bought, as are star names in a very commercial enterprise called the Star Registry. And names cannot reflect political personality or party. The only asteroid name registry, since 1978, is maintained by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) based at the Minor Planet Center (MPC), Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge MA 02138. The new asteroid names are published in the Minor Planet Circulars/Minor Planets and Comets, published on behalf of Commission 20 of the IAU. Prior to 1978, asteroid names were maintained at the Cincinnati Observatory.

The asteroid namers are all members of the IAU. If the discovering astronomer predeceases the naming, then the members of the naming board assigns someone else to name the asteroid. In the 19th and early 20th century, when asteroids were something of a novelty in astronomical circles, the discovering astronomer was proud to choose the name to honor family, colleagues and friends. But later in the 20th century, when asteroids numbered in the many thousands, naming them became something of a chore disturbing the more enthusiastic time discovering and calculating them. Asteroid names were sometimes arbitrarily chosen from calendar models, or bird books, or plant manuals to avoid the time spent agonizing over selecting the names.

But the astronomers have done such a marvelous service as channelers of intuitive thought! Yet, to tell an astronomer that might make them self conscious and destroy the talent!

Astrologers correlate cosmic events with human experience, and naming asteroids is one of the few occasions when astronomers can connect the cosmic event of an asteroid with a human sound, with a name. This is where things get personal --and most astronomers I've met are more comfortable in the cosmos.

The last thing a self respecting astronomer wants is to be associated with the likes of astrologers, although the reverse is not usually the case. For several years, I've been a member of the local amateur astronomers group, and my role as an astrologer was barely tolerated at best. I was often called a pseudo scientist, charlatan, or an entertainer with no useful data, and my attempts to lecture were always blocked.

However, beginning about two decades ago, asteroids were discovered not by human beings but by optical computer scans of the cosmos. So: who names the asteroid when a computer discovers it? The naming still goes to the IAU, meeting periodically at Cambridge MA, either in person or electronically.

Astronomers have been selecting the names of asteroids ever since these "minor planets" were discovered on New Year's Eve 1800. The astronomer namers have done a very good job of selecting the names of Ceres, Pallas, Juno, Vesta, Ceres, and the others including less abstract names like Monica (#833), Chicago (#334), Toyota (#3533) and Beer(#1896), So, why not continue the respect for the astronomers' choices since, with over 14,000 names and counting having been assigned by the IAU, asteroid names work!!!!

The Channelers Asteroid names work so well that the astronomers naming them may be the most sensitive, and yet unintentional, channelers in the world! For heaven's sake, pun intended, don't tell them! Let's be astrologers equipped with our own stable of psychics masquerading as physicists and astronomers, laying the golden eggs. They might discontinue names in preference to numbers, just to spite the fringe crazies like us. As Robert Hand has observed, astronomers would not mind one bit if the earth opened up at an astrologers convention and swallowed us all.

If astronomers were aware of all the attention astrologers attribute to asteroid names, the astronomers might become so self conscious that there intuitive skills and accuracy might be threatened. Heavens, it is in the naming of asteroids that astronomers bridge the divide between "up there" and "down here." In fact, it is only in the naming of asteroids that astronomers become like astrologers, relating cosmic events to human experience. They would not like that association, or the vast majority of them wouldn't.

For example, when Bill Clinton was born, asteroids Williams, Monica and Paula were conjunct opposite asteroids Hillary and Gingerich. All these names chosen decades before Bill Clinton became involved with wife Hillary, or political rival Newt Gingrich, or the women Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones with whom Bill become associated during his presidency.

Is it any wonder then, when asteroid Busch was conjunct the asteroid Washingtonia in late 2000, where George W was headed after the election that year? There was no asteroid named Gore, but there was one named Goretti far removed from Washingtonia. Asteroid Lieberman and another named Chahine, for Dick Cheney, were also close to Washingtonia. So months before the election I predicted in print that the presidency would be delayed but Bush would win.

When musicians Peter, Paul and Mary first performed together in the summer of 1961, guess where the asteroids Peter (#1716), Paul (#3525) and Mary (#2779) were? They were conjunct in the theatrical constellation Leo, of course.

When Fidel Castro established the first Marxist government in the Americas, the asteroid Karl Marx (#2807) was conjunct the asteroid America (#916).

The relevance of asteroid names gives new meaning to the phrase from the New Testament Gospel According to Saint John, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God." The word is the name, the sound of one's identity. In many traditions, a remedy for illness is to change the sick person's name, if only temporarily.

What do they mean? Well, the names may simply refer to the people and places and things associated with them. Can the asteroid Ohio mean anything but the state and river named Ohio. Or, can Shostakovich mean anything other than the Russian composer? Oh what fun to examine the position of important names in your life, and where they are placed in your chart, and the aspects between them with planets, points, and other asteroid names. ---Once when visiting a host for a lecture I was presenting, she told me that Beethoven's music is always played in her home and that Beethoven objets d'art were everywhere. Her chart showed the asteroid Beethoven exactly conjunct her Midheaven.

Within the extraordinary serendipity of all this, we can say that, with the asteroid names added to the mix of our planets and signs, our astrology has never ever been more personal!

My personal Aha! Moment about asteroids occurred in the winter of 1991-92, in Saint Petersburg Russia, when the nights are long, cold, and dark. I was equipped with a laptop and an astronomy program with asteroids, and the moment of appreciation and comfort with new knowledge arrived! The correlation between asteroid names and cosmic relevance became clear. [In spring 1990, I had become the first western astrologer to lecture in the former Soviet Union, and later to teach, travel, counsel, and start a mail-order astrology business with reports in Russian. Countries extensively visited included Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.]

If all this stirs your curiosity and enthusiasm –aiming for your own Aha! Moment-- check out my program Asteroid Signatures, sold by Cosmic Patterns, Inc. You can look up your friends and family, and familiar places, artists, and even high schools and colleges, to see where your unique collection of names fits in the time and space of a horoscope. Connect with, or

Next Update: May 31, 2008


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