After India’s Chess legend Viswanathan Anand, Pakistan’s teenager education activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzahi was given the star status with an asteroid named after her.
The Asteroid 316201 orbiting between our solar systam between Mars and Jupiter discovered by NASA astronomer Amy Mainzer was given the name Malala. The discoverer is given the first choice to select a name and Mainzer found Malala apt to name his discovery.
“My postdoctoral fellow Dr. Carrie Nugent brought to my attention the fact that although many asteroids have been named, very few have been named to honour the contributions of women,” Mainzer said.
Malala rose to fame when she was attacked by Taliban in 2012 for advocating the right of girls to attend school in Pakistan’s Swat region bordering Afghanistan.
Shifted to London where she received medication treatment and recovered, Malala remained the voice of the girl child’s right
to education in the world and she recevied the Nobel for 2014 alongwith Indian child activist Kailash Sathyarthi.
The Minor Planet Center is the only authority to name new asteroid discoveries and assign numbers and the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the International Astronomical Union approves them.
The precondition is that the proposed name should have 16 characters or less, without space in between and hence Malala fits in easily while Viswantahan Anand’s name was shortened to Vishyanand.
Asteroids are not planets as they are small rocky objects compared to other celestial objects but they are huge enough that a single collision of any of them with Earth can cause huge destruction.
Located at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Division F of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the center is sustaining on a five-year grant from NASA and collects data, computes them, checks them and disseminates astrometric observations and orbits for minor planets and asteroids.
As of now, the Center holds over 680,000 asteroids in its archive but merely 430,000 of them are numbered so far.