It is a huge honour to have a celestial object named after you. And these nine Indians have made it to the elite list. Know more about their achievements and the minor planets named after them.
1. Hamsa Padmanabhan – “Hamsa”
At 16, Hamsa Padmanabhan had a minor planet 21575 named ‘Hamsa’, after her. She was then a second-year B.Sc student of Fergusson College, when she made a presentation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Lab for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in 2006. Today, at 21, she is doing her post graduation in Physics from Pune University, after which she plans to do her doctoral research in Theoretical Physics.
2. Sainudeen Pattazhy – “Sainudeen”
NASA named a minor planet (5178 No CD4) after Kerala zoology professor Sainudeen Pattazhy for his environmental research and campaigns, including red rain, health hazard of mobile phone towers, biological control of mosquitoes and the eco-biology of trees of religious importance.
3. Vishnu Jayaprakash – “Jayaprakash”
In 2010, Vishnu Jayaprakash, then a Chennai Class XII student of Chettinad Vidyashram, demonstrated a microbial fuel cell that runs on cow dung and inexpensive graphite electrodes. The minor planet named after him is called 25620 Jayaprakash. He aimed to reduce power costs for India’s 700,000 villages. Today, he has done extensive research on renewable energy technologies, and is now focussing on Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology.
4. Anish Mukherjee – “Mukherjee”
When Anish Mukherjee and Debarghya Sarkar were only 16 years old, they noticed the large scale bottle tampering rampant in India. They took the idea of auto-disposable syringes—which, once used, cannot be used again—and implemented that for one-time use bottle caps. Their design enabled customers to know if the the bottle had been tampered with. For this, planet 2000 AH52 was renamed 25629 Mukherjee.
5. Debarghya Sarkar – “Sarkar”
In 2010, Sarkar and his school classmate Anish Mukherjee worked on an innovative design that would make bottle-caps completely tamper proof. For his contribution to electrical and mechanical engineering, 25630 Sarkar (previously 2000 AT53) is named after him. Debarghya Sarkar is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California. He plans to take his interest in bottle cap design towards a larger goal – design, fabrication and integration of devices that modulate photons and electrons.
6. Hetal Vaishnav – “Vaishnav”
When class X student Hetal Vaishnav saw that ragpickers were not picking up waste packets made up of multilayer plastic, she found that recycling companies avoided buying multilayer film plastic waste from them as it cannot be reused or recycled. Hetal then spent months to develop a process to deliver an innovative material that is “sustainable to water, has good nail- and screw-holding capacity, and has features that are better than MDF (Medium-density fibreboard) and plywood.”. This let her use multilayered and metallised plastic used for packaging wafers and chewing tobacco. “I got a certificate from Lincoln Lab a few days ago,” Hetal said on telephone from Rajkot. Planet 25636 Vaishnav was named for her contribution to the environment.
7. Akshat Singhal – “Singhal”
After Akshat found how annoying it was to index documents in a computer, he developed a system to automatically categorise documents, and also find relations between them, using artificial intelligence. The planet named after him, 12599 Singhal, is in the same region of planets that has 8749 Beatles, 2001 Einstein and 7000 Curie.
8. Madhav Pathak – “Pathak”
Madhav Pathak has changed the conventional Braille slate, making writing easier for the visually impaired. After Madhav Pathak found that his uncle could not easily write in Braille, the system of six raised dots, he decided to change it. Braille has a steep learning curve: Blind children have to memorise more than 300 combinations of dots, since they need one set of combinations for reading, and another set for writing! Madhav has modified the Braille slate (used for writing the language), which lets students easily read and write the language. For this, he has 12509 Pathak named after him.
9. Viswanathan Anand – “Vishyanand”
Named Vishyanand, the main belt minor planet is between the orbits of planets Mars and Jupiter. The planet was discovered in 1988 by Kenzo Suzuki in Toyota, Japan and was nameless until now. A minor planet is usually named after the person who discovered it but if it remains nameless, then it’s in the hands of the committee members to name it. Hence Micahel Rudenko, a minor planet committee member and an ardent fan of Viswanathan Anand’s knack for chess decided to name the planet ‘Vishyanand’. He is only the third chess player in the world after Alexander Alekhine and Anatoly Karpov to be honored in this fashion
FYI: A minor planet is an astronomical object in direct orbit around the Sun that is neither a planet nor originally classified as a comet. Minor planets can be dwarf planets, asteroids, trojans, centaurs, Kuiper belt objects, and other trans-Neptunian objects. The orbits of ~670,000 minor planets were archived at the Minor Planet Center by 2015. The first minor planet to be discovered was Ceres in 1801, though actually it was considered to be a planet for fifty years. It’s a great honor and privelege to have a celestial object named after you!