A group of 10 Romanian students led by Cristian Lazar (22 years old), proposed the name for an asteroid in memory of their teacher, Marin Bica, during the international "Name an asteroid" campaign. The proposal of the students was chosen as the winner together with other five proposals, all selected from 1500 entries. The competition was launched in late 2013 by the "Near Earth Objects" working group of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC). The winners were officially announced on Saturday, 11 October 2014, so currently the asteroid (4633) 1988AJ5 is already bearing the name "MarinBica".
The name proposed by the Romanian participants was selected by SGAC from 1500 proposals from around the world, being subsequently sent to the International Astronomical Union - IAU, the only organisation in the world that can provide official names to celestial bodies.
The asteroid (4633) 1988AJ5 is part of the main asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. At a distance of 2.914 AU from Earth (1 astronomical unit = the distance from Earth to the Sun), the asteroid makes a complete revolution around the Sun in 5.67 years, it has a magnitude of 12.8 and a diameter estimated at 9 km.
"I'm very, very happy and proud of this news. I can not express in words how happy I am that this is happenning! Dacian Marin Bica was my teacher who extracurriculary taught me astronomy and astrophysics. He was a great man and he died tragically. I am very happy that I proposed the idea that an asteroid be named in his memory because he made many contributions both to Romanian and international astronomy", Cristian Lazar testified after finding out that his proposal was accepted.
As a physics teacher at "Dacia" school and founding member of "Meridian Zero" Astroclub from Oradea, Marin Bica made countless contributions to astronomy, both nationally and internationally. For years he led the Astronomy and Astrophysics national teams, winning gold and silver medals at the International Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics together with his pupils, raising the bar for Romania in the science education domain.
"He deserves this honor! Now he is with the stars, both literally and figuratively! I am extremely glad that I had the honor to meet him and that I could do this for him", said Ioana Tatarciuc (17 years old), one of the schoolgirls participating in the project.
Daniel Cosovanu added: "I think that the naming of celestial bodies is a very important process because it brings us closer to the universe and demonstrates the human fascination for space. People have made up stories about the stars, planets and constellations since ancient times, but now it is the time to create stories about asteroids, stories that we will love because they made us dream and imagine what is beyond Earth".
The international campaign supported by SGAC began in late 2013 with the goal to name an asteroid. Asteroids are solid objects left over from the formation of our solar system. Their sizes are ranging from a few meters to kilometers and many of them are orbiting the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, in the asteroid belt. In this campaign six asteroids were named.
The leader of the SGAC project, Alex Karl, said that: "This campaign was a real success. We received proposals from 85 countries and the selection of names was a challenge. It's great to see that someone from Romania was selected. I would like to congratulate Cristian for making the propasal, and all those involved who made this possible".
The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) is an international non-governmental organisation based in Vienna, Austria, which brings together students and young people interested in science and space and which allows them to express their opinion on space issues. SGAC is represented by maximum two contacts in each country.
The "Near Earth Objects" project was created to help the international planetary defense community to prevent one of the toughest natural problems. The group participants are making a contribution through annual reports, competitions, participation in conferences and public projects related to near Earth objects.
More information is available at:
The "Near Earth Objects"
The campaign to name the asteroid
World Space Week
Prof. Marin Dacian Bica (left), and Cristian Lazar (right) at the National Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2010 in Suceava, Romania. (Photo courtesy of C. Lazar)