• The asteroid formerly known as 7546 will now be known as Meriam, after the eastern Torres Strait community. (NITV News )Source: NITV News
Asteroids named in honour of Uncle Segar Passi, Uncle Bill Yidumduma Harne, Professor Marcia Langton, Professor Martin Nakata and the Meriam people from the eastern Torres Strait.
By
Rae Johnston

17 Aug 2020 - 12:42 PM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2020 - 4:40 PM

Five asteroids have been named in honour of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, communities and academics. 

Uncle Segar Passi, Uncle Bill Yidumduma Harney, Professor Marcia Langton, Professor Martin Nakata and the Meriam people from the eastern Torres Strait have been recognised by The International Astronomical Union for their contributions to astronomy.

First recorded in 1979 by Eleanor Helin and Schelte Bus at Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in NSW, the five asteroids have up until now been called 7546, 7733, 7630, 7809, 7547.

The asteroid formerly known as 7546 is a 2km wide asteroid of the Flora family, found in the inner region of the asteroid belt. It will now be known as Meriam, after the eastern Torres Strait community that has developed and maintained complex systems of astronomical knowledge.

7733 is now known as Segarpassi. A 1.9 km wide asteroid in the main asteroid belt, it was named after Daureb man and Meriam Elder Uncle Segar Passi. Mr Passi is an award-winning artist, who shares traditional knowledge about Meriam meteorology and astronomy.

A 6.4 km wide asteroid of the Koronis family, 7630 is located in the outer region of the asteroid belt and is now called Yidumduma after Uncle Bill Yidumduma Harne. A Senior Wardaman Elder, Mr Harne is the author of Dark Sparklers and Four Circles, two books in which he shares his traditional astronomical knowledge. 

Professor Marcia Langton has had her name leant to asteroid 7809, now known as Macialangton, a 4.3 km wide asteroid located in the main asteroid belt. Professor Langton is a Yiman woman and Foundation Chair of Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, which leads the incorporation of Indigenous astronomy into the Australian National Curriculum. 

A 3.3 km wide asteroid of the Koronis family located in the outer region of the asteroid belt, has been named Martinnakata after Professor Martin Nakata, a Torres Strait Islander and Pro Vice-Chancellor at James Cook University, who leads research and curricula in Indigenous Astronomy. 

Making this happen was no simple feat, involving rules, regulations and a lot of red tape.

Duane Hamacher, Associate Professor of Cultural Astronomy at Melbourne University's ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions at Melbourne University told NITV News he submitted the naming nominations to The International Astronomical "a year and a half ago." 

"I'm in the [The International Astronomical Union] working group for star names. We've officiated six Aboriginal star names, but none of those stars can be named after a person," said Dr Hamacher. "Asteroids can be named after people."

And this won't be the end - Mr Hamacher is looking forward to even more asteroids bearing the names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

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