Tue, Dec 03, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Astronomers name minor planet after Bunun Aborigines

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwanese astronomers who discovered a new asteroid have named it “Bunun” (布農) in honor of the Aboriginal people whose traditional communities are in the central mountains.

The asteroid — known as a minor planet because it directly orbits the sun — was discovered by Yang Ting-chang (楊庭彰) and Yeh Chuan-chih (葉泉志) in 2006 from the Lulin Observatory, which stands in Tataja District (塔塔加), Nantou County, at the summit of Mount Lulin near Yushan National Park.

At the time, Yang and Yeh provisionally named it after the Bunun people, whose villages are located in the region.

After years of verification work, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently confirmed that the asteroid, which has been registered as minor planet No. 268669, will be known as Bunun.

According to official information from the IAU, the new body lies in the solar system’s main asteroid belt, which is between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and is 3.575 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.

NASA’s Web site (http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=268669) described the history of the minor planet’s name with: “The Bunun tribe is a native tribe of Taiwan. Its 50,000 members are distributed mainly in Namasia Township (那瑪夏) of Kaohsiung County, Haiduan Township (海端) of Taitung County, and Nantou County.”

A press conference to announce confirmation of the asteroid’s discovery and its name is planned for tomorrow at the Yushan National Park Administration Office because of the discovery’s link to the region.

The Lulin Observatory, managed by the National Central University, contains the nation’s largest telescope, which enables observation and research of objects in space, promotion of public education on astronomy and international collaboration projects.

Officials said minor planet No. 185546, which was discovered in 2006 by another team from the university, was named “Yushan” after Taiwan’s highest mountain.

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