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Ben Feringa in orbit around the Sun

11 April 2019

Dozens of minor planets that used to orbit the Sun anonymously were named by the International Astronomical Union on 6 April 2019. The asteroid that used to be known as ‘minor planet 12655’ was named after Professor Ben Feringa, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and is now officially called ‘Benferinga’. It is nearly 10 km in size and is currently located just beyond Mars.

Minor planet 12655 Benferinga
Minor planet 12655 Benferinga

Feringa’s namesake was not the only link made to the University of Groningen on 6 April: asteroid 12652 was named after the city of Groningen, home of the UG Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, and asteroid 12656 after Prof. Ger de Bruyn, a renowned Astronomy professor who worked both at Astron in Dwingeloo and at the UG and who p assed away in 2017. These three minor planets were discovered by the Van Houten astronomer couple from Leiden in 1977.

Zernike

Another minor planet was already named after a Groningen Nobel Prize winner: Frits Zernike (planetoid 4197: Zernike), and one after professor Amina Helmi in 2013 (UF413: Helmi) . Examples of other ‘Dutch’ planetoids include the one named after the amateur astronomer Georg Comello (5791), astronaut Wubbo Ockels and several members of the Royal Family, such as the former Queen Juliana.

Last modified:29 September 2023 7.00 p.m.
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