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Asteroid is named after Thunder Bay

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The Thunder Bay Asteroid. Does it roll off the tongue? The Thunder Bay Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has been successful in getting an asteroid named after the town, but not everyone is happy about “11780 Thunder Bay”.

On Friday, the organization announced that the International Astronomical Union passed a proposal to name an asteroid after the Northwestern Ontario town of 120,000 people.

The asteroid sits between Mars and Jupiter and was previously known as 1942 TB. 11780 Thunder Bay is five kilometres in diameter and was discovered in October of 1942 by a Finnish astronomer.

“When this opportunity came up to name a minor planet (asteroid), we had expended a lot of time and creativity on naming the star and planet – which are Veritate and Spe, which is Latin for Truth and Hope. So we decided why not give a cosmic shout-out to our home town?” said International Astronomical Union member Maureen Nadin to

Thunder Bay Centre was given the chance to rename the asteroid because it was one of the four centres in North America that won the NameExoWorlds contest. Other winning names include:

• Andréseloy
• Bernardbowen
• Brevardastro
• Fécamp
• Franzthaler
• Hubelmatt
• Javiergorosabel
• Kagura
• Kamagari
• Kodai
• Mayuboshi
• Mehdia
• Miguelhernández
• Royaldutchastro
• Singto
• Tantawi

“We are delighted that the (International Astronomical Union) has chosen to recognize the volunteers of our centre who work to bring astronomy to the citizens of Thunder Bay,” Said Thunder Bay Centre president Brendon Roy to the Chronicle Journal. “I hope it will be a source of inspiration for the whole community,” he continued.

But not everyone is happy about the asteroid’s shiny new name.

George Dvorsky, a science writer for and self-described “futurist, bioethicist, animal rights advocate, history buff, Buddhist, Burner, and music freak”, expressed his disdain for the new names in an article entitled “These Poor Planets Are Why the Internet Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Name Things”.

“The IAU should be embarrassed by these selections and reconsider similar honours in the future. Thanks to this judgment lapse, as of today our solar system sounds a little bit more like a basket of reject planets from a c-list sci-fi movie,” Dvorsky said.

“The International Astronomical Union has named 17 minor planets as part of its NameExoWorlds contest. Looking at the winning monikers, which include such dreadful titles as Miguelhernández and Thunder Bay, it’s now painfully clear that the system of naming celestial objects is broken,” he continued.

“Some aren’t bad, like Mehdia, Kodai, and Tantawi, but most are complete garbage,” says Dvorsky. “The worst include Royaldutchastro (named by the Royal Netherlands Association for Meteorology and Astronomy), Miguelhernández (named by the Student Society at Complutense University of Madrid), and the godawful Thunder Bay (named by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada from, you guessed it, Thunder Bay). Other awful names include Brevardastro, Jubelmatt, and Javiergorosabel.”

Given the extent his rant, it would probably be best not to tell Dvorsky the winning name of the United Kingdom’s new polar research vessel, “Boaty McBoatface”, at least for the time being.

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