Asteroid named after the pope behind the Gregorian calendar reform

The 16th-century pope responsible for what is now known as the Gregorian calendar now has another, celestial claim to fame.

By means ofThe Associated Press

February 28, 2023, 11:45 AM

ROME — Pope Gregory XIII, the 16th-century pontiff responsible for what is now known as the Gregorian calendar, now has another, celestial claim to fame.

A working group of the International Astronomical Union has named an asteroid after him, the Vatican Observatory said on Tuesday.

“560974 Ugoboncompagni” — Gregory’s birth name is Ugo Boncompagni — was announced along with 72 other asteroids in the Feb. 27 update of the union’s Working Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature.

The new group also includes three Jesuits affiliated with the Vatican Observatory, which brings together more than 30 Jesuit-named asteroids, the Observatory said in a statement.

Gregory, who lived from 1502-1585, along with an Italian astronomer and a Jesuit mathematician corrected the Julian calendar and introduced a new method of calculating leap years that resulted in the so-called current Gregorian calendar.

The Vatican Observatory traces its 1582 origins to Gregory’s pontificate and the Gregorian calendar reform. Located at the pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in the hills south of Rome, the Observatory now houses a dozen priests and brothers who study the universe. It was led by Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno.

According to a statement from the Observatory, the process of naming an asteroid – a relatively small body in space that orbits the sun – involves a temporary designation based on the date of its discovery, followed by a permanent number.

“At this point its discoverer is invited to propose a name for it,” the Observatory said, adding that pet names and commercial names are prohibited, and that 100 years must pass before naming the an asteroid next to an individual or certain events.

The nomenclature working group, made up of 15 astronomers, will then judge the proposed names.

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