Astronomers hope Near-Earth Asteroid 1999 AP10 will soon have an inspiring new name: AdaCarrera, in honor of the remarkable Ada Amelia Carrera Rodriguez (1936 – 2020) of Mexico, legendary female motorcyclist and lifelong astronomy education advocate, whose legacy continues to shine bright.
AdaCarrera was the overwhelming winner of Unistellar and SETI Institute’s “Nickname the Asteroid” contest, which sought a catchier moniker for the subject of months of research between the two organizations. For only the 69th time in history, astronomers created a 3D shaped model of a near Earth asteroid (NEA), using data collected by citizen astronomers with their Unistellar eVscopes to generate the very first model of a potentially threatening space object.
“Unistellar and SETI Institute are humbled that Ada Carerra’s community worked so tirelessly to honor her legacy through our Nickname the Asteroid contest,” said Franck Marchis, senior planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer at Unistellar, and one of the contest judges. “We hoped this asteroid would receive a name as inspiring as our accomplishment, but we never could have expected how truly fitting the winning name would be. Ada’s speed, power and astronomical accomplishments have found their match in near Earth asteroid 1999 AP10.”
Ada, who died in May 2020 at age 84, was an astronomy education pioneer in Mexico for more than 40 years. Prior to that, she was a pioneer of female motorcycling. She was an inspiration to girls around the world from a young age, as the first Mexican girl to speak to the United Nations. Named “The Woman of the Year” by the National Chamber of Women in 2012, Ada founded numerous astronomical groups including the Carta del Cielo Astronomy (1987), the Centro de Observation y Difusión Astronómica A.C. (1988), and the Association of Astronomy Amateurs (1991).
“The legacy that Ada leaves is vast as she never once went unnoticed during her time on Earth. Since my mother was born, the journey of life included many great things including wonderful accomplishments, mainly in women’s motorcycling and in the amateur astronomy world of Mexico” Ada’s son, Alvaro, said. “Everyone who knew her loved her dynamism, happiness, daring spirit, daily perseverance and love.”
Alvaro, along with her many supporters in the astronomy community, launched a social media campaign to have her name assigned to the asteroid. Ada received so many submissions (60% of all votes and 15% of all contest entries), that some variant of Ada Carrera made up eight of the Top 10 Finalist spots, based on votes. Her name made up approximately the next 20 finalists spots (based on votes) as well. At the conclusion of the contest, distinguished judges Franck Marchis, Tim Russ (American actor, director, screenwriter, and musician) and Nancy C. Wolfson (Vice Chair of the International Astronautical Federation T Committee on NEOs) made it official and named Ada the winner.
“The Nickname and Asteroid Campaign by Unistellar-SETI is an important initiative for our NEO community,” said Nancy C. Wolfson, Vice Chair of the International Astronautical Federation Technical Committee on Near Earth Object (NEOs). “Finding, tracking and naming Near-Earth Asteroids are crucial steps in defending Earth. Acting as one of the judges was a great experience and I’m looking forward to the next one!”
Ada’s Inspiring Life
Ada was of Cuban and Mexican descent, but Spanish born (Madrid, January 4). As an infant, Ada and her extended family traveled by boat to Mexico City. In 1942 during WWII, Ada and her family moved again to Washington D.C., as her father served in the Mexican Navy. Her father was Lieutenant de Corvette Enrique Carrera Alomía and her mother was Mrs. Asela Rodríguez Sánchez.
In 1944, as the war raged on, 8-year-old Ada was chosen as the representative of Mexico to share words of encouragement with soldiers at war. This message was transmitted from the Waldorf Astoria in New York to newscasts in theaters and to radio stations around the world.
As the war concluded, so did Ada’s stay in the United States, and she spent the remainder of her childhood in the rural Valle and Navarte neighborhoods in Mexico City. She became most known for being an avid motorcyclist, moto-organizer and prominent woman in motorcycling. In 1960, at the age of 24, Ada married fellow motorcycle enthusiast, Mr. Alvaro Rodríguez Díaz, and they later had two children, a daughter Adamelia (1961) and a son Alvaro (1967).
Ada was a fervent astronomer who shared her love of the celestial objects, space, and the physical universe with others throughout Latin America and beyond. In 1979, at the age of 43, Ada turned her energy towards astronomy. Shortly after, while at the Luis Enrique Erro Planetarium of the National Polytechnic Institute, Ada heard that humans “were mostly star dust.” She had to know more. This fact alone motivated her to take introductory courses in astronomy at the same planetarium. Ada later enrolled in the Astronomical Society of Mexico (SAM).
Ada was a leader in female empowerment and an inspiration to many, owing to her diverse passions and hobbies throughout her life. Her legacy will live on through the many she impacted, a new photographic tribute of her life in the Luis Enrique Erro Planetarium of the Polytechnic Institute Nacional (the oldest and largest planetarium in Mexico) and now – through the AdaCarrera nickname of Near-Earth Asteroid 1999 AP10.
“Ada always had a passion to go to space and see the world from that point of view,” Alvaro, Ada’s son, said. “I like to think she is currently traveling on her motorcycle touring the Universe. One day she will stop by the Asteroid that will bear her name for eternity.”
About the Judges
An esteemed panel of judges evaluated the finalist entries based on News Value, Scientific Value, Creativity and Relevance. After a unanimous decision from the judges, AdaCarrera will now be officially recommended to the 15-person Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an international group of professional astronomers with research interests related to minor planets and/or comets. The Nickname the Asteroid judging panel included:
Franck Marchis, senior planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer at Unistellar.
Marchis has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and is no stranger to the accolade Ada will receive. In April 2007, the asteroid numbered 1989SO8 was named “(6639) Marchis” in honor of his work in the field of multiple asteroids.
Nancy C. Wolfson is a scholar, independent researcher, speaker, entrepreneur and artist.
She is a published author and a co-founder-President of Disrupting Space LLC. Nancy is currently the Vice Chair of the International Astronautical Federation’s (IAF) Technical Committee on NEOs. A great part of Nancy’s work is focused on education and communication about asteroids and contributing to the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN).
Tim Russ is an American actor, director, screenwriter, and musician. He is best known for his roles as Lieutenant Commander Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager and appeared in living rooms all over the world from 1995 to 2001. Beyond his fictional connection to all things celestial, Tim is passionate about astronomy and is a dedicated eVscope user.