Massachusetts An asteroid has recently been named
after a 75-year-old Filipino Jesuit astronomer and former director of the Manila
Observatory, Fr. Victor L. Badillo.
According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), minor planet No. 4866 measuring
some 13 to 30 kilometers across is now officially known as "Badillo," in honor
of the Filipino priest who popularized astronomy in the Philippines.
The IAU, through its 16-member Committee on Small Body Nomenclature, is the sole
scientific organization with the authority and responsibility of christening small
solar-system bodies such as asteroids and comets.
In the case of minor planets, for centuries they have been traditionally named after
mythological figures and geographical places as well as renowned scientists, poets,
composers, artists, novelists and other prominent personalities.
The official IAU citation for asteroid 4866 Badillo, published in Minor Planet Center
(MPC) Circular No. 54173 on May 23, reads: "Victor L. Badillo (born 1930) has
popularized astronomy in the Philippines for more than three decades, inspiring countless
Filipino astronomers. Ordained in 1965, he directed the Jesuit-run Manila Observatory in
Quezon City and served as president of the Philippine Astronomical Society from 1972 to
1990." [NOTE: Father Victor L. Badillo, S.J. is also an
honorary director of the Astronomical League of the Philippines, Inc. (ALP) since its
creation in 2003. ]
According to the MPC circular, the asteroid was discovered on Nov. 10, 1988 from Chiyoda,
Japan, and was given the preliminary designation 1988 VB3. It revolves around the sun
(between Mars and Jupiter) at an average distance of 450 million kilometers and takes
about five years to complete one orbit.
Asteroid 4866 Badillo is currently about 596 kilometers from Earth, shining very dimly at
magnitude 18 in the constellation Gemini.
"I am delighted and thrilled to have received this great honor," said Father
Badillo, a physicist by training who obtained his Ph.D. from Saint Louis University in
Missouri in 1963.
Father Badillo remains an amateur astronomer at heart, mentoring generations of Filipino
stargazers through the years, including these writers.
This is the third time that Filipinos have been given this accolade. In 1995 the IAU named
asteroid 6282 Edwelda in our honor. Edwelda, a combination of our first names, was in
recognition of our accomplishments in the field of astronomy, including the book we wrote
on Halleys comet that the National Research Council of the Philippines published in
It was however American astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker who discovered asteroid 6282 in 1980
from Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California.
The second time was when a high school teacher and three students were cited for winning
the 2002 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Louisville, Kentucky.
Josette Biyo and her students Allan Noriel Estrella, Jeric Valles Macalintal and Prem
Vilas Fortran Rara were each honored with their own asteroid 13241 Biyo, 11697
Estrella, 12088 Macalintal, and 12522 Rara, respectively.
These minor planets were discovered in 1998 by LINEAR, a robotic telescope in Socorro, New
Mexico, operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory.
Asteroids are solid chunks of metal-rich rocks left over from the birth of our solar
system some 4.5 billion years ago. They range from pebbles and boulders to the size of
small islands of 600 to 1,000 kms.
Below is an image of Asteroid 4866 Badillo (Object
with tick mark) taken by NEAT (Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking) survey on July 17, 2002, at
09:14:18 UT. @ NEAT
(Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson have been working at Sky
& Telescope magazine for more than 10 years. Edwin is an associate editor while Imelda
is photo editor of the said magazine. Editors)