November 10, 2011

Asteroids named for Indians

With an asteroid almost crashing into the earth Tuesday, Indian Country Today reviewed the asteroids named for Indians:

Asteroids with American Indian Names, and Video of YU55Yesterday we brought you three of them—Navajo, Hopi and Pocahontas—and a subsequent search turned up a few more.

“In keeping with astronomical tradition, discoverers of minor planets are accorded the privilege of proposing names for their discoveries,” said Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union, the Paris-based organization that oversees the naming of such things. ”I’m not sure how many names are derived from Native American sources, but I can add 5460 Tsenaat’a'i, which is (supposedly) the Navajo word for ‘flying rock.’”

The others that Williams unearthed:

  • Asteroid 2270, Yazhi, the Navajo word for ‘little one’

  • Asteroid 3307 Athabasca, ancestors of the Navajo and Apache

  • Asteroid 10039 Keet Seel, prehistoric cliff-dwelling, occupied by ancestors of the Hopi

  • Asteroid 19407 Standing Bear, Ponca chief, the first American Indian to be granted the rights of a U.S. citizen, and a legal advocate for Natives

  • Asteroid 145475 Rehoboth, a school that primarily serves Native American families
  • Comment:  ICT missed the names noted in Asteroids Given Luiseño Names.

    For more on Indians and astronomy, see Kitt Peak Observatory on Tohono O'odham Land and The Constellation Indus.


    Anonymous said...

    Technically, Athabasca's a river. AthabascaN is a linguistic family. Not quite the same.

    Anonymous said...

    Oh, I forgot to mention: In the trans-Neptunians, there's Quaoar and Varuna. Saturn also has five moons with Eskimo names: Ijiraq, Kiviuq, Paaliaq, Siarnaq, and Tarqeq.

    Anonymous said...

    EDIT AGAIN: I meant Sedna, not Varuna. Varuna's named after a Hindu god. LOL

    Rob said...

    There's an Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation ( and an Athabasca federal electoral district (, so I think this usage is okay.