telescope on tripod with a starry sky

Celestial Body Christened ‘Špilas’, In Honour of Brno’s Famous Castle, History, and Local Dialect

The celestial body’s name is a tribute to the city of Brno. Photo Credit: Freepik

Brno, 13 Sept (BD) – The International Astronomical Union has christened a celestial body that moves between Mars and Jupiter with the name: (401820) Spilas. 

The name is taken from the term for Spilberk Castle in the local Brno Hantec dialect, spoken among lower classes in Brno during the 19th and early 20th centuries and developed from the mixing of the Czech Moravian language with the languages of other residents of Brno, including Germans and Jews. The name was suggested by the city’s observatory team after astronomers at the Klet Observatory were the first to spot the asteroid, and it marks the first time that Hantec has ever been used in the naming of a celestial object.

The Bulletin of the International Astronomical Union’s Small Solar System Nomenclature Group, the only globally recognised authority for the naming of celestial bodies, justifies the naming of the asteroid as follows: “Špilas is the local colloquial name for a castle and fortress from the 13th century overlooking the city of Brno. Originally intended to be a royal castle, it later became an imposing Baroque fortress and served as a prison. Today it is in the custody of the Museum of the City of Brno.”

“It is beautiful when the universe brings joy to people,” commented Markéta Vaňková, mayor of the city of Brno. “This planet is an example of that. Its name will remain unchanged until the end of human civilization. It is not impossible that in the distant future, not only will a planet pass by Spilas, the space one, but perhaps an earthling will land on it. Perhaps one that has already visited our extraordinary Špilberk.” 

The certificate naming the planet (401820) Špilas was handed over yesterday to Mayor Vaňková at Špilberk Castle. (401820) Špilas will thus be among 30 asteroids bearing a name linked to the city of Brno, some of which are the subject of the exhibition ‘Brno in the Stars’ (Brno ve hvězdách), which will be on display for the next six weeks in the former Lapidarium in the Špilas Small Courtyard.

“The present asteroid ‘Špilas’ was discovered at the South Bohemian Klet Observatory by my colleagues Miloš Tichý and Zdenek Moravec on 30 September 1996. Thereafter, it was repeatedly observed under the name 1996 SP7 until it reached a well-calculated orbit and serial number 401820,” explained Jana Tichá, director of the České Budějovice Observatory and Planetarium, which has a branch in Klet. “At Klet, we have always had a friendly and cooperative relationship with astronomy in Brno. That is why we decided to dedicate a Klet asteroid to Brno and its people, we chose from several symbols of the Moravian metropolis. Špilberk won because it is not to be missed. And why Špilas? The colloquial term ‘hantec’ is actually another symbol of Brno, reflecting the development and history of the city and its inhabitants.”

The asteroid (401820) Špilas moves on an eccentric orbit in between 280 and 540 million kilometres from the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It orbits the Sun once every 4.5 Earth years and is probably only a few kilometres in diameter. The age (401820) of Spilas is comparable to the age of the solar system, 6 million times older than the castle.

“In 200 years, more than 20,000 asteroids have been named, of which a thousand are somehow connected to our city,” said Jiri Dusek, Director of the Brno Observatory and Planetarium. “It all started in the year 1890 with a body called Bruna. From then on, we have seen more and more Brno asteroids in the sky, including (2073) Janáček, (3366) Gödel, (4112) Hrabal, (8343) Tugendhat, (14980) Gustavbrom, and now (401820) Špilas.”

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