Asteroid named after Filipino neurosurgeon and astronomer

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5)— The Paris-based International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named an eight-kilometer-wide asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter "7431 Jettaguilar," in honor of Dr. Jose Francisco "Jett" Aguilar, a neurosurgeon and an amateur astronomer.

"I am really at a loss for words — not even in my wildest dreams have I imagined having an asteroid named after me," Aguilar said in a statement Friday. "Honestly, I sincerely believe that there is a long list of more deserving Filipino amateur astronomers ahead of me, but I guess there had never been a Filipino, or American, neurosurgeon yet who had received such an honor!"

Asteroid 7431 Jettaguilar was discovered on March 19, 1993 from the European Southern Observatory in Chile and was initially introduced as 1993 FN41, according to IAU's Working Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature (WGSBN) — the sole organization responsible for assigning names to asteroids, comets, satellites of minor planets, and other small solar system bodies.

The United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration has recognized more than 1.1 million asteroids, which are remnants from the early formation of the solar system about 4.6 million years ago.

WGSBN described Aguilar — who works at the Philippine Children's Medical Center, Philippine General Hospital, and Cardinal Santos Medical Center — as "a Filipino neurosurgeon who has saved over one thousand children in the Philippines by volunteering his time and surgical expertise to treat their congenital malformations and brain tumors."

"He is also an amateur astronomer and serves as vice president of the Astronomical League of the Philippines," read WGSB's bulletin.

Aguilar has been giving neurosurgical services to children for more than two decades. In 2019, he successfully removed a parasitic twin from a three-week-old infant, nicknamed "Baby Ned."

The 60-year-old is also the clinical director of the Philippine Movement Disorder Surgery Center, which pioneered the "Deep Brain Stimulation" surgery for patients with a rare genetic movement disorder.

Despite his busy schedule providing neurosurgical services to children, Aguilar has been an avid astrophotographer with his photos of the Sun, the transit of Venus, lunar eclipses, and other celestial events published in astronomy websites and

Aguilar is also known as an avid eclipse chaser, and has traveled abroad to observe and photograph total and annular solar eclipses in China, Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States.

Other asteroids named after Filipinos

Asteroid 7431 Jettaguilar is an addition to the growing number of asteroids named after Filipino astronomers and scientists.

The first Filipinos to have asteroids named in their honors were astronomers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre. In 1995, IAU named asteroid 1980 TS4 "6283 Eswelda," a combination of their first names, in recognition of their accomplishments in Astronomy.

In 2005, the IAU named asteroid 1988 VB3 "4866 Badillo" after Jesuit astronomer Fr. Victor Badillo, the former director of the Manila Observatory and co-founder of the Philippine Astronomical Society.

In 2007, asteroid 1988 RK8 was named "6636 Kintanar," in honor of Dr. Roman Kintanar's service as director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

The IAU also named 2000 EL157 "30100 Christophergo" after astrophotographer Christopher Go, in recognition of his expertise in high-resolution imaging of the planet Jupiter and its satellites.