When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

LA STAMPA

If This Is A Planet: Celestial Body Named For Author, Auschwitz Survivor Primo Levi

The Italian Jewish author and scientist lived through the worst that mankind has wrought. Now his name lives on beyond his work, and beyond the earth, in a 17-km-wide celestial body -- discovered in 1989 -- that has now officially been named planet Primol

Primo Levi, author and chemist (RAI)
Primo Levi, author and chemist (RAI)

TURIN – Ever since it was discovered in 1989 between Mars and Jupiter, the minor planet 4,545 existed without a proper name. It has one now, and it is indeed worth a closer look. The celestial body has been officially named Primolevi – one word, according to astronomy registry rules -- after the renowned Italian author and chemist, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The number 4,545 has indeed gained new meaning. Primo Levi, an Italian Jew, left Auschwitz in 1945. Furthermore, he kept for the rest of his life on his arm the record number 174,517, tattooed by his Nazi captors.

Mario Di Martino, astronomer of the Observatory of Pino Torinese, had the idea to the name a minor planet after Levi. The International Astronomical Union, the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies, has now approved his proposal. The minor planet description reads: "Primo Levi (1919-1987) was an Italian chemist and writer. He was the author of two novels and several collections of short stories, essays and poems. His best-known work is If This Is A Man, his account of the period he spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp.

Minor planet Primolevi was discovered in 1989, by Belgian astronomer Henri Debehogne, with a telescope of the European Southern Observatory in the Andes Mountains of Chile. It is 17 kilometers in diameter, situated in the asteroid belt between March and Jupiter. It logs a five-year orbit, which has been studied in 1,084 observations – most recently on October 28, 2011. Debehogne, who died in 2007 at 78, was an astronomer at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, specialized in astrometry of asteroids and comets, and discovered more than 700 minor planets.

On Armstrong's step and Challenger disaster

The choice of name is more than a simple recognition of Levi's literary work and human suffering. The planet Primolevi is also an acknowledgment of his scientific profile. Levi, a professional chemist, in fact was passionate about astronomy and wrote often about it. He wrote articles for La Stampa about the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned voyage to orbit the moon; the first human landing on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969; and the disaster of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. In Levi's short story A Tranquil Star, an astronomer saw his family weekend ruined because of the explosion of a supernova which happened thousands of years before.

An article published in Scientific American on black holes and Galileo Galilei inspired Levi's poems Dark Stars and Sidereus nuncius. In News from the Sky Levi wrote that he considered the discoveries of astronomy and atomic physics as the human intellectual redemption after a 20th century of horrors of two world wars. "I believe that what is being discovered about the infinitely large and infinitely small is sufficient to absolve this end of the century and millennium," he wrote.

Levi's passion for astrophysics sometimes was more subtle. In the last story of his collection The Periodic Table, he wrote about the different lives and shapes of a carbon atom, which at the end was captured in a sugar molecule and provided Levi with the energy to finish his story. The carbon atom, which for a million years has remained still on a rock, Levi wrote, "has already a very long cosmic history." So too, we could say, will the author himself.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - RAI

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Holy Mess! Spain's Disfigured Christ Mural Remains A Hit With Tourists

The clumsy restoration of a mural of Christ in a Spanish chapel 10 years ago shocked, then amused Spaniards and millions more abroad, and gave the local town a level of publicity, and tourist revenues, it never had nor could have hoped for. Here's how it looks 10 years later.

Man in front of the notorious disfigured Christ mural inside a Borja chapel

Marina Artusa

BORJA — Among the countless pictures and images of Christ around the world, it might not be outlandish to imagine that one of them might seek revenge — using humidity as the instrument of its vengeance.

One might say this of a by-now notorious mural of Christ inside a chapel in Borja in the province of Aragón, northern Spain.

Painted in 1930 by a painter and academic, the image was smothered in 2012 by Cecilia Giménez Zueca, a local resident and amateur painter. She wanted to help no doubt, but her "unfinished" restoration turned a venerable image of the suffering Christ — an Ecce Homo — into a bloated, indefinable cartoon.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ