Last Halloween at CSICON in New Orleans, it was announced that an asteroid discovered by skeptic and astronomer James McGaha had been named to honor CSI investigator Joe Nickell. And just this month two more asteroids were named for Australian science communicators and skeptics "Doctor Karl" Kruszelnicki and Adam Spencer. These three are actually the latest in a long series of asteroids that have been named for skeptics or skeptic organizations.
The complete list of asteroids named for skeptics (in alphabetical order by namesake) is as follows, with their discovery dates:
- 5020 Asimov - Isaac Asimov - March 2, 1981
- 4923 Clarke - Arthur C. Clarke - March 2, 1981
- 106545 Colanduno - Derek Colanduno - November 28, 2000
- 6630 Skepticus - for CSICOP - November 15, 1982
- 4970 Druyan - Ann Druyan - November 12, 1988
- 2587 Gardner - Martin Gardner - July 15, 1980
- 7277 Klass - Philip J. Klass - September 4, 1983
- 18412 Kruszelnicki - Karl Kruszelnicki - June 13, 1993
- 6629 Kurtz - Paul Kurtz - October 17, 1982
- 106537 Mccarthy - Robynn "Swoopy" McCarthy - November 23, 2000
- 10036 Mcgaha - James McGaha - July 24, 1982
- 41450 Medkeff - Jeffrey Medkeff - June 1, 2000
- 153298 Paulmyers - PZ Myers - March 29, 2001
- 31451 Joenickell - Joe Nickell - February 9, 1999
- 165347 Philplait - Phil Plait - November 23, 2000
- 3163 Randi - James Randi - August 28, 1981
- 2709 Sagan - Carl Sagan - March 21, 1982
- 17269 Dicksmith - Dick Smith - June 3, 2000
- 18413 Adamspencer - Adam Spencer - June 13, 1993
- 165612 Stackpole - Michael Stackpole - March 23, 2001
- 13123 Tyson - Neil deGrasse Tyson - May 16, 1994
- 153289 Rebeccawatson - Rebecca Watson - March 22, 2001
The numbers are assigned sequentially as asteroids are discovered and verified. The names honor individuals or organizations.
You may have noticed one odd anomaly in that list. Why is the asteroid named to honor CSICOP called Skepticus? That was because of a rule against using acronyms in naming astronomical bodies.
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(This essay originally appeared in a slightly different form on Skepticality episode #124)
Tim Farley is a Research Fellow for JREF.