Unravelling the truth behind NASA naming an asteroid after a Saudi student

Updated 02 August 2017

Unravelling the truth behind NASA naming an asteroid after a Saudi student

JEDDAH: Fatima bint Abdulmoneim Al-Sheikh, 19, has gone down in history as the second Saudi woman to have an asteroid named after her.
Arab News has confirmed with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) that the asteroid is called Al-Sheikh 33535, and is registered with the official international governing body for naming celestial objects.
 Al-Sheikh received the honor of having an asteroid named after her for her research entitled: “Determining the Effect of the Novel Carl 2 Strigolactone Analog on the Seed Germination of Parasitic Weeds.”
She was a second runner-up for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in 2016, and was awarded $1,500 at the time.
 In recognition of her achievements in science, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on July 23 published a two-part report headlined: “NASA Names One of its Asteroids After Talented Saudi Fatima Al-Sheikh.”
The report was carried by numerous Arab newspapers and websites, and a Twitter hashtag created in her name became popular. But part of that report was not entirely true.
NASA did not name the asteroid after her, nor did it recognize her achievement nor that of any other teenage scientist that has had an asteroid named after him or her by winning the Intel ISEF competition.
Other winners who had asteroids named after them include Saudis AbdulJabbar Al-Humood and Sarah Al-Rabiah. Other Arab winners who had asteroids named after them came from Egypt and Jordan.
 Arab News contacted the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program, which discovered 1999 HS9, the asteroid’s original name before its new name was registered in honor of Al-Sheikh.
“The LINEAR program submitted the proposal (to the IAU) to name asteroid 33535 in honor of Fatima Al-Sheikh in recognition of her excellent work” at the Intel ISEF, said J. Scott Stuart, a technical staff member in the Space Control Systems Group at LINEAR.
 The website (www.ll.mit.edu/outreach/ceres.html) has information on how and why some asteroids are named after winners of international science competitions, and their teachers or mentors. NASA is not mentioned.
 Winners of the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge and the Intel Science Talent Search also have asteroids named after them.
 Newly detected minor planets or asteroids get a provisional designation. If the object’s orbit is confirmed, it receives a permanent number and the discoverer is invited to suggest a name for it.
Some websites Arab News found online, such as Cosmic Registry, falsely claim that you can have an asteroid, comet or small planet named after you or anyone you want.
Prices for an asteroid begin at $24.95. The website will also “sell” you land on the Moon, Venus and Mars.  
 Cosmic Registry claims that its registration certificates are certified by the UN Office of Outer Space Associations and registered with the International Astronomy Union — a play on the names of the official bodies: The International Astronomical Union and the UN Office for Outer Space Associations.
 “Registering an Asteroid name for a loved one is a unique and heartfelt gift, and a perfect way to celebrate a memorable event or special occasion,” the Cosmic Registry website says.
 What you will receive is a cheap certificate in a bad frame that means nothing more than the adoption certificate that comes with a child’s toy.


Saudi Embassy evacuates 300 tourists from Lebanon

Updated 19 October 2019

Saudi Embassy evacuates 300 tourists from Lebanon

  • The embassy said that evacuees were escorted to Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut by Lebanese security forces to guarantee their safety
  • Three Saudia aircraft were used to transport them

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia's embassy in Lebanon has confirmed it has facilitated the “evacuation of Saudi residents and visitors” from the country.
“The evacuation operation, imposed by the security situation in Lebanon and the importance of ensuring the safety of Saudi nationals, started Saturday at 5 a.m. after the Kingdom secured three Saudia aircraft to transport them,” the embassy told Arab News.
“Three hundred people were evacuated as of Saturday afternoon, while the total number of those wishing to leave remains unclear. We have identified a hotel in Beirut as a starting point,” it added, noting that most of those who had left were tourists.
The embassy also confirmed evacuees were escorted to Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut by Lebanese security forces to guarantee their safety.
Protests broke out in Lebanon on Thursday night, and disorder has disrupted roads leading to the airport, with burning tires blocking several key routes.
On Friday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged its citizens already in Lebanon to exercise “utmost caution.”
Egypt’s Embassy in Beirut also called on its nationals in the country to avoid protest areas, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.
“The embassy calls on all Egyptian citizens in Lebanon to avoid the areas of gatherings and protests, to be careful in their movements and to abide by the instructions of the Lebanese authorities in this regard,” MENA reported.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Embassy in Lebanon asked citizens wishing to travel to the country to delay trips where possible.
“The embassy also calls on citizens currently in Lebanon to take utmost care and stay away from crowds and demonstrations,” it said on social media site Twitter.
Bahrain and the UAE warned against travel to Lebanon and called on their citizens in the country to leave immediately.