Local Amateur Astronomer Honoured

Armagh Observatory, 17th September 2001.

Approximately 20 members of the East Antrim Astronomical Society (EAAS) and an equal number of friends from the Irish Astronomical Association (Belfast) and the Irish Astronomical Society (Dublin) visited Armagh Observatory today to celebrate the naming of a minor planet or asteroid after one of their more distinguished members, Mr John McConnell.

John McConnell, who was born in 1946, comes from Maghaberry and is currently the Chairperson of the EAAS which meets monthly in the Thompson School, Ballyrobert, Co. Antrim. He is well known among both professional and amateur astronomers, and takes a particular interest in observational astronomy and astrophotography, and in the history of Irish astronomy.

The asteroid, (9929)McConnell, was discovered in 1982 at the Oak Ridge Observatory, in Harvard, Massachusetts, operated by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where Armagh Observatory's former Director Dr Eric Lindsay spent a number of years working for his PhD more than 70 years ago. The minor planet is very faint, being only 5 miles across and currently lying more than 130 million miles away from the Earth in the constellation of Aries. It has a nearly circular orbit passing close to the inner edge of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

By gaining a piece of heavenly real estate, John McConnell joins a list of almost ten thousand names from all over the world, including individuals, groups and organizations, that have been honoured by the International Astronomical Union by having an asteroid named after them. Calculations in August this year by Armagh Observatory summer students Aisling Haughey and Rebecca Clark, from St. Michael's Grammar School, Lurgan, and Guildford County School, Surrey, have shown that the asteroid's orbit is extremely stable and unlikely to alter significantly in less than at least a hundred million years.

The orbit of (9929)McConnell. A number of asteroids with an Armagh connection are also shown. Click on the image for a larger version (391 KB). The image is also available in higher resolution Postscript (481 KB) and PDF (85 KB) formats suitable for printing.

For further details, contact John McFarland or Mark Bailey at Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel: 028-3752-2928, FAX: 028-3752-7174; e-mail: jmf@star.arm.ac.uk, and meb@star.arm.ac.uk.

See also:
Armagh Asteroids
Orbit and Ephemeris of (9929)McConnell from JPL
Asteroid Discoveries from 1800-2000 - very large (144MB) AVI file

Last Revised: 2001 September 27th
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