Two asteroids have been named after Chinese space scientist Guo Yonghuai and his wife Li Pei, an applied linguist, with approval from the International Astronomical Union (IAU), according to the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).
The two asteroids, No. 212796 and No. 212797, were discovered in October 2007 by a Chinese researcher from the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.
The university and the observatory jointly submitted the asteroid naming application to the IAU earlier this year.
“The images of the two asteroids were captured in one photo, so they were discovered at the same time and their code numbers are adjacent. Such a discovery is very rare in daily observation,” said Zhao Haibin, the discoverer.
The two asteroids are orbiting in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Zhao estimates that they are the same in size, and both are a few kilometers in diameter. In addition, their orbits will remain stable for tens of millions of years.
Guo Yonghuai was a professor at the USTC and the first dean of the chemical physics department. A pioneer of modern Chinese mechanics, Guo made great contributions to mechanics, applied mathematics and aeronautics. He died in a plane crash in 1968, aged 59.
In 1999, Guo and other 22 scientists were awarded national medals of honor for their contributions to China’s first atomic and hydrogen bombs and satellite launches in the 1960s and 1970s.
Li Pei accompanied Guo to teach at the USTC in 1960. She devoted her life to English language teaching and research and was honored as “the mother of applied linguistics in China.”
In 2003, Li donated Guo’s medal to the USTC and established “Guo Yonghuai Scholarship.” In 2007, Li again donated all her savings to the university and the Institute of Mechanics to be used for the scholarship.
Li died in 2017 at the age of 99.