Modern Heroes Find a Home in the Trojan Asteroids.

Jul 14, 2021

Five Olympic and Paralympic athletes have a permentant place of honor amoung the classical Greek Heros.

Before Eurybate’s satellite Queta was named, every single Jupiter Trojan asteroid had been named after a hero in the Greek and Trojan war as described by Homer in The Iliad. But while there are a impressive number of named characters in that book, there are even more asteroids in Jupiter’s Trojan swarms. As scientists learned more about these bodies in preparation for the first ever voyage to the Trojan asteroids, it became clear that a wider range of names was needed. To this end Keith Noll, Lucy’s Project Scientist and the Vice Chair of the IAU’s Working Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature, helped devise the new naming convention whereby smaller Trojan asteroids will be named after a fitting sucessors to these Trojan heros, modern day Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Queta was named for Enriqueta Basillo, the woman who lit the Olympic caldruon in the 1968 Olympics (the first woman to have carried out that role, and to this date the only woman to have lit in solo). Now six Olympic and Paralymic althetes join her. The newly named asteroids are thought to be related to Queta as they are all apparent members of the Eurybates collisional family. This means that they may all be fragments left over from a massive collision billions of years ago that left Eurybates as the largest surving remnant.

All of the honorees were, like Basillo, involved in the 1968 Olympics. This year was chosen as the Beatle’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” a song near and dear to the team’s heart, was released in 1967.

(24426) Belova is named for Belarusian fencer Elena Dmitriyevna Novikova-Belova, the first female fencer to win four gold medals at the Olympics. She competed in the 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980 Olympics, and she medaled at each one. In 2007, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) presented her with the Pierre de Coubertin medal, an award presented to people who embody the spirit of sportsmanship at the Olympics.

(28958) Binns is named for Canadian multi-sport athlete Hilda May Binns. When she was nine, she contracted polio and could no longer use her legs. Instead of using her wheelchair, her mother encouraged her to rely on her arms, a practice that gave her incredible upper-body strength. At the 1968 Paralympic Games, Binns won a gold medal in swimming, becoming the first Paralympic athlete to win a gold medal for Canada. Over the course of four years, she won a total of 58 medals in swimming and track and field — six at the Paralympics, 18 at the Para-Pan American Games, and 34 at Canadian championships. When giving inspirational speeches to schoolchildren, she often says, “Everyone has a disability. It’s your ability to deal with it that gets you through.”

(39285) Kipkeino is named for Kenyan distance runner Kipchoge “Kip” Keino. Though a gallbladder issue gave him intense abdominal pains during the 1968 Olympics, he still managed to win a silver medal in the 5000 meters and a gold medal in the 1500 meters, winning the latter race by a record-shattering 20 meters. An orphan himself, Keino and his wife Phyllis have taken in hundreds of foster children after his retirement. They have also founded a primary school and a high school. Given this, it should be no surprise that his favorite saying is reportedly, “We come into this world with nothing. We leave this world with nothing. So we must share with others who are not able to take care of themselves.” In 2016, the IOC presented him with the first ever Olympic Laurel, a distinction honoring an individual’s “achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport.”

(39795) Marson is named for Italian multi-sport athlete Roberto Marson. Marson won ten gold medals in swimming, track and field, and wheelchair fencing in the 1968 Paralympics, after which he was declared that year’s Outstanding Athlete. He also competed in the 1964, 1972, and 1976 Paralympics and won a total of 26 medals, 16 of which were gold. Following his retirement from sports, Marson founded and presided over the Italian Federation of Handicapped Sports, later called the Italian Federation of Disabled Sports. He was posthumously inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2012.

(43212) Katosawao is named for Japanese gymnast Sawao Kato. As the new captain of Japan’s male gymnastics team at the 1968 Olympics, Kato brought Japan their third gymnastics victory in a row, and also won the all-around title. He then kept his all-around title in the 1972 Olympics, making him the third gymnast in history to do so. His final Olympic competition was in 1976. Over the three Games, he won a total of eight gold medals, which remains an unbroken record for Olympic male gymnasts. In 2001, he was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

(43436) Ansschut is named for the Dutch speed skater Johanna “Ans” Schut. In 1968 she set a new Olympic record in speed skating while representing the Netherlands in the the 3,000 meter speed race. The following year she went on to break world records five times during various international competitions. She retired from competition in 1971.

In addition to these athletes, 7 larger asteroids were named under traditional Trojan naming convention after caracters from Greek mythology.