Friday, August 06, 2010

Asteroid Named for US Amateur Organization

Yup. The American Radio Relay League now has an asteroid named for it. However, at 2 AU out from the sun (twice Earth's distance) and magnitude 19.2 (that's dim, folks), the hams probably shouldn't try using it as a passive signal repeater. It's said, though, that a very good amateur astronomy telescope with a sensitive CCD should be able to photograph it... barely.

ARRL Letter 8/5/2010:
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane! No, It’s an Asteroid -- Asteroid (31531) ARRL, To Be Exact!

John, Paul, George and Ringo are on the list. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms -- even Frank Zappa and Elvis (but not Madonna). Of course Asimov and Sagan made the cut, Mr Spock, too, but not Captain Kirk. And now ARRL -- more precisely, (31531) ARRL -- joins this prestigious company as one of more than 16,000 named minor planets in our solar system. A minor planet -- such as an asteroid --is an astronomical object in direct orbit around the Sun that is neither a dominant planet -- such as Mercury, Saturn and Neptune -- nor a comet. The first minor planet -- named Ceres -- was discovered in 1801. Since then, more than 200,000 minor planets have been discovered, most of them lying in the asteroid belt. But as of July 27, 2010, only 16,005 had been named.


Joe Montani, W7DXW -- senior research specialist with the Spacewatch Near-Earth Asteroid Project Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona -- told the ARRL that he had discovered (31531) ARRL in his work discovering and observing Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs). He said he had received confirmation that the asteroid had been officially named as of July 27; it can take 10 years or more for the smaller objects -- such as asteroids, dwarf planets and comets -- to receive names. (31531) ARRL was discovered in 1999.

“The naming was proposed to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Committee on Small Bodies Nomenclature (CSBN), and was accepted by the CSBN and published to the world on July 27, 2010 at about 1900 UTC,” Montani said. “The full name of the object is (31531) ARRL. The number in parenthesis is the so-called ‘permanent number’ that an asteroid receives after its orbit is sufficiently accurately determined so that it can never become ‘lost.’ ‘ARRL, is, of course, the acronym of the American Radio Relay League.”