The Vatican Observatory has named four newly discovered asteroids after notable Catholics, including Pope Gregory XIII.

It was Pope Gregory XIII who commissioned the astronomer Father Christopher Clavius, SJ, to reform the calendar in the 16th century, leading to the Gregorian calendar, which is still in use today.

The decision by the Working Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature (WGSBN) of the International Astronomical Union had been contemplating for a long time. Finally, in February, the group published the latest batch of named asteroids, which included “560974 Ugoboncompagni” named after Ugo Boncompagni (Pope Gregory XIII). Another three asteroids were named after Jesuit priests who worked or still work at the Vatican Observatory.

The process of naming asteroids is not an easy one. It can take several years, starting from the time an asteroid is discovered and given a permanent designation number once its orbit is determined. Only after the object’s discoverer can reliably predict its position well into the future, the object can be named. However, there are specific guidelines. For instance, names of pets or commercial names are not allowed, and names of individuals or events known primarily for political or military activities cannot be used until 100 years after their death or occurrence.

Catholic priests have long had a significant impact on the field of astronomy. Jesuit Father Giovanni Battista Riccioli developed the system of lunar nomenclature that is still used today. When the Apollo 11 mission landed in the lunar “Sea of Tranquility” in 1969, the name “Tranquility” came from Riccioli.

The Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world, dating back to 1582. Pope Leo XIII formally refounded the observatory in 1891. The Vatican also runs the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope located in rural Arizona, about 200 miles southeast of Phoenix.

Read The Awesome Reason 35 Craters On The Moon Are Named After Jesuits 

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