Weird name for an asteroid – 11780 Thunder Bay


11780 Thunder Bay – that’s the name of an asteroid and not an address in Thunder Bay. An asteroid 1942 TB that was discovered way back in 1942 has finally received a name for itself through a proposal that was put in by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Thunder Bay Centre, Canada.

Naming of asteroids is regulated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and as a part of its move to get members of the general public involved in naming of asteroids, the IAU organised the NameExoWorlds contest in 2015. Under the contest, names of 19 ExoWorlds (14 stars and 31 exoplanets orbiting them) were chosen by public vote, and accepted by the IAU.

These names became the official designations of the exoplanets and stars. Further, as a reward to the winners, they were given the opportunity to name minor planets in our Solar System. The IAU, via its Division F Working Group Small Bodies Nomenclature (SBN), recently approved the new names of 17 minor planets after the winners made their proposals.

While majority of the names are good enough being named after astronomers, educators, authors, poets, and theatrical dances, two of the names are particularly not so asteroid like – The right to name the asteroid 1942 TB was given to the local centre in Thunder Bay that came up with the name 11780 Thunder Bay. The second name that’s weird is Miguelhernández.

While Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs believes that it is nice to receive such a recognition from space, there are those who believe that the IAU should be ’embarrassed’ about selecting such names.

Science writer George Dvorsky is of the opinion that IAU should “reconsider similar honours in the future.”

“Thanks to this judgment lapse, as of today our solar system sounds a little bit more like a basket of reject planets from a c-list sci-fi movie”, he wrote in a post in Gizmodo. “Looking at the winning monikers, which include such dreadful titles as Miguelhernández and Thunder Bay, it’s now painfully clear that the system of naming celestial objects is broken, the post reads.”