National / Science & Health

Japanese astronomer names asteroid after Reiwa

JIJI

A Kochi astronomer has named the asteroid he found three decades ago after Reiwa, the name of the Japan’s new era.

On May 5, Tsutomu Seki, 88, made a proposal to the International Astronomical Union to call the asteroid he found in the west of the Pleiades in 1989 as Reiwanohoshi, meaning the Star of Reiwa.

The name Reiwanohoshi is expected to be approved in the next month or two. The Reiwa Era started May 1 when Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne.

“Initially, I didn’t mean to name it, but I decided as my astronomer friends encouraged me” to do so, said Seki, a resident of the city of Kochi.

The 18-magnitude asteroid, which cannot be seen by the naked eye has an estimated diameter of some 10 kilometers.

Seki, known as a comet hunter, has so far found 223 asteroids as well as six comets, including Comet Ikeya-Seki, found in 1965.

In 1990, he named one of those asteroids Heisei after the era that ended April 30 after three decades in line with Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s abdication.

Showa was an “era of war and defeat,” Seki said of the era which preceded Heisei. “I hope that the world will become peaceful in the era of Reiwa” after Heisei saw a series of natural disasters.

Seki is planning to organize an astronomical observation event in autumn 2020, when Reiwanohoshi is expected to approach Earth.