/

Big asteroid named after Chilean cult filmmaker

Paris AFP-JIJI

A large asteroid has been named after Alejandro Jodorowsky, the cult Franco-Chilean filmmaker and science-fiction comic book writer who later became a spiritual guru.

The Minor Planets Center, a branch of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), has listed asteroid 261690 Jodorowsky at the request of a French astronomer who spotted the 5-km-wide object more than seven years ago. The discoverer is Jean-Claude Merlin, who has several other “minor planets,” as large asteroids are called, on his list of sightings.

“I detected it on the evening of Christmas Eve in 2005, using an 80-cm telescope in Arizona that I direct over the Internet from my home,” Merlin said in a press release by Les Humanoides Associes, Jodorowsky’s French publishing house.

Several years of observation are needed to confirm a discovery and calculate its orbit, enabling it to be enshrined in the IAU’s list. A special panel is in charge of approving names. Approval came July 24. The object 261690 Jodorowsky orbits in the main asteroid belt at an average distance of 470 million km from the sun.

Jodorowsky, 84, leaped to prominence in 1970 with an offbeat “acid western” movie called “El Topo,” which was followed in 1973 by a surrealist film, “The Holy Mountain.” Both became popular on the underground film circuit in America.

In France, he found success in the 1980s with science-fiction comic books, including a series called “The Incal,” illustrated by French artist Moebius. Jodorowsky, based in Paris, also writes and talks about his own spiritual beliefs, which he calls psycho-shamanism, whose influences include tarot cards, alchemy and Zen Buddhism.

Hundreds of asteroids have been named after humans rather than characters in mythology. “Artistic” asteroids include 2362 Mark Twain, 2675 Tolkien, 8749 Beatles, 7934 Sinatra and 13070 Seanconnery.