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Two asteroids in the Solar System received Romanian names: (10466) Marius-Ioan (Piso) and (10707) Prunariu

on 10 May 2017

Two asteroids are now named after Dr. Phys. Marius-Ioan Piso, President of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA), and Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, the first and only Romanian cosmonaut. The new asteroid names ─ (10466) Marius-Ioan (Piso) and (10707) Prunariu ─ have been announced in the circular published by the International Astronomical Union in April 2017. The names have been suggested by the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy.

(10466) Marius-Ioan (Piso) is an asteroid discovered in 1981, on 1 March. It has a diameter of 2.6 km, a semi-major axis of 2.332 astronomical units (A.U.) [1] and a period of revolution of 1301 days. The asteroid can reach a minimum distance from Earth of 1.13 A.U. Its name now honours the professional activity of Dr. Phys. Marius-Ioan Piso. His name is linked to the establishment of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) in 1991 and the achievement of the organisation's independency four years later, to the founding of the Institute of Space Science, but also to the Romania and European Space Agency (ESA) cooperation's start. Due to his constant concern regarding space research and technology development in Romania, this cooperation resulted in the country’s accession to the European Space Agency in January 2011.

Marius-Ioan Piso contributed to the development of space policies in Romania and in 2003 he took part in the drafting of the first European Space Policy document.

Currently, Marius-Ioan Piso is President and Executive Director of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA), and also: member of the Board of Trustees at the International Academy of Astronautics (as of 2006), national representative at the NATO Science Committee (as of 2004) and member of the Board of NATO RTO Space Technology Advisory Group (as of 2005), representative of Romania at the European Space Agency (as of 1998), among others.

The (10707) Prunariu asteroid was discovered the same year (in 1981), on 24 October. With a diameter of 6.0 km and a semi-major axis of 2.431 A.U. it revolves around the Sun in 1385 days. This asteroid can reach a minimum distance from Earth of 0.87 A.U. Its name is now connected to the first and only Romanian cosmonaut who, at the age of 28, flew aboard Soyuz 40 to the Salyut 6 space laboratory during an 8-day long mission. Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu is Honorary President of the Romanian Space Agency and Vice-chairman of the International Relations Committee of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, through the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and with the support of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), was actively involved in adopting the UN Declaration which proclaims 30 June as International Asteroid Day – an initiative meant to raise awareness of the asteroid impact hazard and mitigation methods to protect the Earth.

The Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) supports and promotes the Asteroid Day at a national level as official partner of the global campaign. This year, the launch of the event took place on 7 February, at Luxembourg.

Such educational initiatives continue and enhance the global efforts for planetary defence, a field Romania is strongly involved in. Within ESA, the Romanian Space Agency has prioritised the participation of Romania in the Optional Programme „Space Situational Awareness” focused on the detection and mitigation of potentially hazardous asteroids, as well as the monitoring of the space weather that can impact our ground- and space-based infrastructure. More specifically, Romania’s efforts are centred on space missions such as Proba-3, the AIDA mission and the AIM mission. Also, Romania seeks to develop a radar that can detect objects, 1cm in size, from a distance of 500 km.

In order to raise the awareness and understanding level of this field by the scientific and industrial community in Romania, ROSA frequently organises events dedicated to this subject, such as Industry Days or the annual IAA conference on Space Systems as Critical Infrastructures.


[1] Astronomical Unit is a unit of length, roughly equal to the distance from Earth to the Sun of about 150 million km.

Credit imagini: IAAR