As part of my 1994 rewrite of my asteroid ephemeris creation software, I calculated ephemerides for all named asteroids. Since then, I have been creating ephemerides for asteroids as new names have been published in the Minor Planet Circulars. By the end of 1994, my total count of named asteroids was 4,755. Since then, new names have been issued in the following months and counts: 2/95: 19, 3/95: 46, 5/95: 26, 7/95: 38, 9/95: 37, 11/95: 53, 1/96: 25, 3/96: 74, 4/96: 54, 5/96: 81, 6/96: 41, 7/96: 64, 8/96: 46, 10/96: 22, 12/96: 25, 2/97: 92, 4/97: 46, 6/97: 78, 8/97: 53, 10/97: 72, 12/97: 55, 2/98: 48, 4/98: 48, 6/98: 40, 8/98: 82, 10/98: 68, 12/98: 58. The August 1998 new names carried the total over the 6,000 mark. This month’s new names (December 1998) brought my named asteroid ephemeris count to 6,145.
I finally bought & installed a CD-recorder in August of 1997. All named asteroid ephemerides fit on a single CD-R. My last complete asteroid order before I switched to CD took 53 1.4M floppy disks per two-century period. For obvious reasons, I now ship complete asteroid orders only in CD format.
Under current rules, astronomers number new asteroids before they name them. There has been a large increase in new asteroids over the last several years. New asteroid numbers in the December 1998 Minor Planet Circulars reached 9826, so I expect numbers to pass 10,000 in the next few months.
As you can see from counts of 9,826 numbered and 6,145 named asteroids for the same month, there is a lag between numbering and naming. I expect some of that lag to get caught up in the next few months because of a notice in the December 1998 Minor Planet Circulars urging discoverers to submit names in time for review before the May 1999 Minor Planet Circulars are published. A fourth edition of Schmadel’s Dictionary of Minor Planet Names is planned for 1999, covering all names through the May 1999 Minor Planet Circulars.
NCGR’s Asteroid Special Interest Group is trying to bring some order to the abundance of asteroid names. They also offer complete printouts of named asteroid positions. If you are interested, contact Roxana Muise—AST SIG, PO Box 7105, Bellevue, WA 98008-1105; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I realize this many asteroids intimidates many astrologers, but for the dedicated explorer this is a fascinating new realm.