Romanian names have been given to objects from our solar system, 13 of which to objects from planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and the Moon, the Earth’s natural satellite. 11 names were given to craters, 1 to a mountain range and 1 to a valley. 27 asteroids bear Romanian people’s names and another 6 were named after Romanian toponyms. Also, 3 comets have Romanian names.
The first Romanian toponym was given to a mountain range on the Moon in 1961, which was called Montes Carpatus, after the Carpathian Mountains – Carpati in Romanian. The name Carpati comes from ‘carpi’, the word for the ancient Geto-Dacian tribes, the ancestors of the Romanian people. The first Romanian name was given to a space object in 1970 in memory of the mathematician and astronomer Spiru C. Haret (1852-1912) who was a Liberal minister of education. Astronomer Magda Stavinschi, a former director of the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, explained the circumstances in which Romanian names of persons and places were given to celestial bodies in our solar system:
Magda Stavinschi: “There is a nomenclature established by the International Astronomical Union aimed at honoring the world’s greatest people both on Earth and in the Universe. Romania was included rather late on this sky map. The first Romanian personality, whom we, astronomers, had expected to be honored on the celestial sphere, was Spiru Haret. His name was given to a crater on the far side of the Moon at the time when that part of the moon was mapped. Many people know Spiru Haret as a former education minister of Romania and maybe the most outstanding minister Romania has ever had, but he was also passionate about astronomy, he was the first Romanian to get a PhD in astronomy, in celestial mechanics in Sorbonne. His achievements were remarkable and appreciated by the whole world.”
The first asteroid that received a Romanian name had initially been identified by a number: 2331. It was then named after professor and astronomer Constantin Pârvulescu, a highly respected personality in the field of space research. The asteroid was discovered in 1936 by Belgian astronomer Eugene-Joseph Delporte. The quasi-spherical asteroid has a diameter of 11 to 24 kms and revolves around the Sun once every 3.78 years, terrestrial time. 140 million kms was the closest distance within which the asteroid came to the Earth.
Magda Stavinschi: “Another interesting personality whose name was given to an asteroid was Constantin Pârvulescu. Due to an unhappy coincidence with the name of a dissident from the Ceausescu regime, we were not allowed to pronounce his name. Pârvulescu worked in Brussels for a while and it was the Belgians who gave his name to the asteroid. Pârvulescu was seen as one of the most important astrophysicists of his time. Unfortunately, this name coincidence prevented Constantin Pârvulescu from being known to the Romanians.”
Space objects also received Romanian women’s names. Craters from planet Venus were named Veta, Irinuca, Natalia, Zina or Esterica.
Magda Stavinschi: “At a certain moment, names were given to objects on planet Venus. We were asked to come up with proposals for names. At the time, I was the director of the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy. The name of Elena Văcărescu was accepted, maybe because she was known to the French and the international community more than other Romanian personalities. We made several proposals such as Ella Marcus, a great Romanian astronomer, names of pianists, Ana Aslan and many others.”
According to Magda Stavinschi, the number of newly-discovered celestial objects increased, hence a higher demand for names of personalities. Therefore names of regular persons started being given to celestial objects.
Magda Stavinschi: “At present, there are many asteroids, so the nomenclature has been changed. Until recently, we have given asteroids the names of deceased persons, but now some people are buying such names. The names of personalities are starting to lose ground. We have tried to continue to promote the names of Brancusi, Enescu, Eminescu, of astronomer Gheorghe Demetrescu and professor Ban from Cluj, to be given to asteroids. Probably we’ll have more and more Romanian names on the celestial sphere. But these were the first Romanian names that will remain, I hope, in the history and civilization of Romania and the world.”
The name of Romania’s greatest poet Mihai Eminescu was given to an asteroid identified with the number 9495 and to a crater on planet Mercury.
Magda Stavinschi: “Asteroids are also known as small planets that move between the orbits of Mercury and Jupiter. At present, there are thousands of planets that have a name and soon the planets outside the Solar System will also be named.”
(translated by: Lacramioara Simion)