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2675 Tolkien

A stony asteroid some ten kilometres in diameter, Tolkien pursues a slightly eccentric course around the inner edge of the Solar System's main Asteroid Belt, taking three years and three months to complete each circuit of the Sun.

Tolkien belongs to the Florian family, a collection of asteroids dominated by Flora and Ariadne, the wreckage of much larger body that broke apart more than a hundred million years ago. This origin perhaps offers a partial explanation of its strange pattern of rotation: while most asteroids turn on their axes over a matter of hours, Tolkien takes some forty-four days to complete a lazy, tumbling rotation.

This asteroid takes its name from the author J.R.R. Tolkien, who is astronomically notable as being the only writer to have a planet of the Solar System named for one of his characters (the dwarf planet Varda, and its moon Ilmarë, are named for angelic beings from his fictional mythology).* Names from his works have been used for features on Saturn's moon Titan, and also provisionally to certain features on Pluto's moon Charon, notably Mordor Macula, a dark region in the moon's northern hemisphere, named for the Dark Land of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings (note that these feature names are unofficial, any may not be retained permanently).

* Tolkien is one of very few authors to have bodies named for their literary inventions, but he is not unique. Within the Solar System, many of the moons of Uranus are named for characters from Shakespeare's plays, while several craters on Mars' moon Phobos take their names from Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Much farther afield, the five known planets of the star Mu Arae (a star named 'Cervantes' in December 2015) have been given the names of characters from Don Quixote.


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