May 12 – Asteroids 633 Zelima and 634 Ute

Asteroids 633 Zelima and 634 Ute were both discovered on May 12th, 1907 by German astronomer August Kopff (1882-1960) from the Heidelberg Observatory.

August Kopff

Ute was named after an acquaintance of the discoverer, because she had recently become engaged, but I have a problem with the prevailing theory regarding the naming of Zelima.  It’s officially “unknown”, which is fine, but the theory suggests it was plucked from thin air because the letters “Z” and “M” were in the provisional designation (the name before it had a name) of asteroid “1907 ZM”.

Now I never met the guy, but Kopff doesn’t strike me as being short of a name or two for his discoveries.  I”ve trawled through a load of them, and none of the rest seem to use this method.  Zelima is a German girl’s name, and according to thinkbabynames.com it was at its most popular between 1900 and 1909.  So I suspect a better theory might be that today’s asteroid was named after the new daughter of one of Kopff’s friends or colleagues.


Created May 2019.