The legacy of two legendary Filipinas now lives on in the cosmos.
In a piece of news that’s definitely out of this world, two asteroids have now been named after two heroic Filipinas: Gabriela Silang and Princess Urduja.
The revelation comes from infectious diseases specialist and molecular biologist Edsel Salvana, who shared the news on Facebook on Saturday, December 18. He said that, as a TED fellow, he had crossed paths with Dr. Carrie Nugent, an assistant professor of Computational Physics and Planetary Science at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, who had once asked him to “suggest names of asteroids after strong Filipino female personalities, whether historical or legendary.”
Salvana raised two names: Gabriela Silang, a Filipina military leader who led the Ilocano independence movement from Spain; and Princess Urduja, the legendary 14th-century warrior princess whom historians surmise reigned the land of Tawalisi, or modern-day Pangasinan.
“Carrie wrote me today to tell me these were APPROVED by the International Astronomical Union,” Salvana revealed. “I give you the asteroids/minor planets Urduja and Gabrielasilang!”
In Nugent’s letter to Salvana, she called the “extraordinary” Filipino heroines “remarkable for their bravery and strength.” She also clarified that these asteroids are now officially given the identifying numbers and names (5749) Urduja and (7026) Gabrielasilang, and shall be referred to as such in subsequent scientific literature.
According to Nugent, the first known image of (5749) Urduja was taken in 1973. It was officially discovered in March 1991, and since then, it has been observed a total of 2,893 times.
It measures between twelve to thirteen kilometers in diameter and orbits the sun on a roughly circular path in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.
Meanwhile, (7026) Gabrielasilang was first recorded in an image back in 1976 and was officially charted in August 1993. It has been observed a total of 1,900 times in its orbit around the sun. It measures about three kilometers in diameter and has a less circular orbit than (5749) Urduja.
This isn’t the first time that celestial bodies bore the name of Filipino figures. Here’s a rundown of all the asteroids named after accomplished Filipinos so far, per Manila Bulletin:
(6282) EDWELDA – Named in honor of couple Edwin and Imelda Joson for their notable contribution to Philippine Astronomy.
(4866) BADILLO – Named in honor of Fr. Victor Badillo, co-founder of the Philippine Astronomical Society.
(6636) KINTANAR – Named in honor of Dr. Roman Kintanar, who is a former Director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (1958-1994) and former president of the World Meteorological Organization (1979-1987).
(11697) ESTRELLA – Named after Allan Noriel Estrella from Manila Science High School for winning the 2002 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
(12088) MACALINTAL – Named after Jeric Valles Macalintal, a groupmate of Estrella. Together they won the 2002 Intel ISEF.
(12522) RARA – Named after Prem Vilas Fortran Rara of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology. He won 2nd prize in the 2002 Intel ISEF Microbiology category.
(13241) BIYO – Named after Dr. Josette Biyo, a science teacher at the Philippine Science High School in Ilo-Ilo. The first Asian to bag the Intel Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002. She is currently the Director of the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute.
(30100) CHRISTOPHERGO – Named in honor of Christopher Go for his exceptional contribution to Astrophotography. He discovered Oval BA in Jupiter, also known as Red Spot Jr. in 2006.
(28439) MIGUEL REYES – Named after Miguel Arnold Reyes of the Philippine Science High School. He won 2nd prize in the 2011 Intel ISEF under the category of Materials and Bioengineering.
(34044) OBAFIAL – Named after Nadine Antonette Obafial from Davao City National High School. She won 2nd prize in the 2017 Intel ISEF with Rubeliene Chezka Gloria and Myrelle Angela Colas.
(34047) GLORIA – Named after Rubeliene Chezka Gloria from Davao City National High School. She won 2nd prize in the 2017 Intel ISEF with Obafial and Colas.
Art Daniella Sison