By: Gino Dercola

Laurel and Hardy in Space

The next time you are outside gazing into the sky, think about this: There is an asteroid out there speeding through our solar system which is named "Laurel" after the great comedian, Stan Laurel, and there is another asteroid speeding along that is named "Hardy" after another great comedian, Oliver Hardy.

The discoverer of the Laurel asteroid was Cyril V. Jackson (December 1903 - February 1988), a South African astronomer. Born in England, his family moved to South Africa when he was a young boy. He worked as an astronomer in both South Africa and Argentina. He is credited with discovering 72 asteroids from 1929 to 1936. He discovered (and named) the Laurel asteroid on July 31, 1935, while working in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The discoverer of the Hardy asteroid was Sylvain Julian Victor Arend (August 1902 - February 1992), a Belgian astronomer born in Luxembourg. He is credited with discovering several comets and 51 asteroids from 1929 to 1948. He discovered (and named) the Hardy asteroid on October 7, 1961, while working at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, in Uccle, a municipality in Brussels.

Asteroids are commonly named after people, both real and fictional. These people may be associated with such areas as science, politics, religion, arts and entertainment, explorers, and others. A few examples of people who have had asteroids named after them would be: Popular Music: John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones; Film and TV: Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Jerry Lewis, Kirk Douglas; Sports: Lance Armstrong (cyclist), Lou Gehrig (baseball), Jesse Owens (athlete).

Asteroids, also called "minor planets" or "planetoids", are small celestial bodies that drift in our solar system in orbit around the sun. Originally, the "Laurel" and "Hardy" asteroids were officially considered to me minor planets; but they are now part of an official classification "small solar system bodies"-bodies that orbit in the inner solar system (up to the orbit of Jupiter). The Laurel and the Hardy asteroids have elliptical orbits and are part of the "main asteroid belt". A vast majority of asteroids in our solar system can be found in this asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. This main asteroid belt also includes bands of dust that travel with the asteroids. Multiple unmanned spacecraft have traversed the belt without incident-the first being Pioneer 10 in 1972. Hundreds of thousands of asteroids have been discovered within our solar system, and the present rate of new discoveries is about 5,000 per month. As of early 2007, over 368,000 asteroids have been identified-over 152,000 of those have orbits defined well enough to have permanent, official numbers-and of these, almost 14,000 have official names-one being Laurel, one being Hardy.

After discovery, an asteroid receives a provisional number until its orbit is precisely known. "1935 OK" was the provisional designation given to the asteroid named later for Stan Laurel; "1961 TA" was the one given for Ollie's. Then, a permanent, official number and name are assigned that remain thereafter with the identity of that asteroid. Thus, "2865 Laurel" is the official identification for the asteroid named for Stan Laurel; "2866 Hardy" is the one for Oliver Hardy. All discovered asteroids are assigned a number, but not all are named-it's the choice of the discoverer.

The Boys really do get around, don't they! It's great to find out that they have been so honored.

Laurel and Hardy in Space

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