The Birth of a New Minor Planet: Shiratakihime (13942)
(13942) Shiratakihime = 1989 VS2
Discovered on November 2, 1989
by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
From the Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, ed. By Lutz D Schmadel:
"Some 1300 years ago, according to local legend, Princess Shirataki came to Kiryu from the imperial city of Kyoto. She brought with her the skills of sericulture and weaving. Textile weaving has become the principal industry of Kiryu. "
- M.P.C. 73 983 2011 Feb. 18

The earth on which we live is called a "planet," one of many in the heavens. There are 8 large planets revolving around the sun in our solar system. Many small planets have been discovered between Mars and Jupiter, and these are called "minor planets." Starting out as flotsam from explosions, etc., planets are slowly formed over time by the gradual accumulation of small rocks and minerals. For one reason or another, these minor planets are believed to be immature stars in the process of formation. Recently, some minor planets have been discovered near the earth's orbit. If one of them were to impact the earth, the power of the impact could potentially wipe out the human race. For this reason, countries around the world are now cooperating to search the heavens for potentially dangerous minor planets.

Currently, there are over 260,000 minor planets whose orbits have been correctly identified. Initially, it was decided that the minor planets would be named after Greek and Roman goddesses, however, after the discovery of over 300 minor planets, goddess names ran out. At that point it was decided that the discoverer would have the right to assign a unique name which he/she would submit to the naming committee. Names of astronomers, scientists and places are frequently used; however, the names of companies, pets or animated characters are, basically, not permitted. Among the many names approved, the use of the name of a Japanese princess is very unusual.

The International Astronomical Union is an organization composed of astronomers from around the world who set the rules and regulations regarding all matters of astronomy. One of the recent topics of interest was the decision to declassify Pluto as an astral planet in our solar system, reducing the number of planets to just eight. Names of small astral bodies come under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union's "Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature." Various task groups within this working group investigates the names submitted and announces their decisions. These names shine in the night sky like the first order star, Vega, of Tanabata fame in Japan, and Antares in the Scorpion constellation. These names are recognized internationally as official scientific nomenclature.

The names of minor planets are published in the Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, updated every three years. The names included there will live on as long as the human race exists.

The minor planet numbered 13942, "Shiratakihime" was discovered on November 2, 1989 by Kazuo Watanabe (1955 - ) of Sapporo City along with Kin Endate (1960 - ) of Bihoro Town in Hokkaido. After its discovery, a long period ensued during which the planetŐs orbit was accurately plotted so that the position of the planet could be determined at any time. The minor planet Shiratakihime is about 10 kilometers in diameter and revolves around the sun once in every 4.33 years.

Kiryu City lies in the eastern part of Gunma Prefecture. It is one of JapanŐs many industrial cities, having become famous from the Nara Era for its textiles known as "Kiryu Ori" (Kiryu Textiles) and competes with Nishijin of Kyoto for its high quality fabrics. The cityŐs proud heritage is reflected in the many historic and cultural buildings which are still standing. Kiryu was incorporated as a city in 1921, covering a total area at the time of 11.76 square kilometers. Over the years, the city underwent many transformations, most recent of which was its consolidation with the towns of Niisato and Kurohone, increasing its total area to 274.57 square kilometers and its population to approximately 120,000 citizens.