What an honour!
Canadian astronomer names small planet after Annapolis Royal
Annapolis Royal Mayor Bill MacDonald just found out a planet has been named after Nova Scotia’s smallest town.
Dubbed (516560) Annapolisroyal, the tiny planet is about as big around as it’s namesake and is the first space object David Balam has named after a community – and he’s named a lot of space objects.
“It’s a wonderful recognition of Annapolis Royal and the pivotal role it played in the early origins and colonization of our nation,” said MacDonald. “It truly is the cradle of our nation.”
Victoria, B. C. astronomer David Balam discovered ( 516560) Annapolisroyal on Dec. 12, 2006 at Maunakea Observatories at the 4,200- metre summit of Maunakea in Hawaii. Since then various other observations and orbital verifications have been done. It’s been a long road, but late at night on Sept. 27 it became official.
“The Town of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, is recognized as the cradle of the Canadian nation for its prominent role in the country’s early origins and remains influential as a leader in heritage stewardship and preservation,” Balam said in an email to MacDonald Sept. 28.
“In essence, you have been honoured by the naming of a small planet, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter,” he told MacDonald. “The naming became official late last night and forever more the planet is known as (516560) AnnapolisRoyal. Currently, it is 434 million kilometres distant and about to go behind the sun. It was last observed and measured on July 18. The minor planet takes 4.6 years to go around the sun.”
By small planet, Balam means that (516560) Annapolisroyal is about 1.5 kilometres in diameter, or roughly the same size as the town itself.
Balam said the story leading to the discovery of (516560) Annapolisroyal began in December 2001 when he accepted a position with the Canada- France Legacy Survey, a consortium of Canadian universities and the Paris Observatory, to discover extra- galactic supernovae - exploding stars in far distant galaxies.
“The aim of the survey was to map out the expansion geometry of the universe using these exploding stars as celestial yard sticks,” Balam said. The survey was conducted using the Canada- France- Hawaii telescope on Maunakea from 2001 to 2007.
“The giant mosaic detector allowed us to photograph an area of sky approximately four times the area of the full moon to a depth such that we could detect objects more than 10 million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the human eye on a clear and dark night,” he said.
Besides the more than 100,000 galaxies that would be detected on any given field there were a great many objects like comets, asteroids, and satellites crossing the fields of view on any given night, he said.
“By the end of the survey more than 700 minor planets had been discovered as well as two TRANSNEPTUNIAN (outer solar system) objects and several Earth-crossing objects, one of which is a potential ‘impactor’ and could be quite dangerous to our planet.”
It took 12 years of observa- tion and calculations to verify (516560) Annapolisroyal’s orbital path.
About Annapolis Royal
In an interview, Balam said he chose Annapolis Royal because he had already named many objects after famous Canadian astronomers, scientists and institutions and wanted to honour Canadian history.
Balam said he’s proud of being a Canadian. “Canada has always been extremely kind to me, and I feel I owe something back. So I thought okay, let’s look at some of the most historic parts of Canada and we honour that.”
What Wikipedia Said
“David D. Balam ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_D.Balam) is a Canadian astronomer and a research associate with the University of Victoria’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, in Victoria, British Columbia. Specializing in the search for Near- Earth Objects, Balam is one of the world’s most prolific contributors to this research; only two astronomers have made more discoveries than Balam. He is credited with the discovery or co- discovery of more than 600 asteroids, over a thousand extra- galactic supernovae, and novae in the galaxy M31. Balam is also co- credited for the 1997 discovery of Comet Zhu- Balam.
“Among celestial bodies discovered by Balam are the asteroid 150145 Uvic which he named for the University of Victoria, and 197856 Tafelmusik, named for the Baroque Orchestra in Toronto.
Currently, Balam conducts an optical transient survey (OTS) using the 1.82-m Plaskett Telescope of the National Research Council of Canada.
“The asteroid 3749 Balam is named in his honour, recognizing the fact that he developed most of the software for the university’s astrometric program on minor planets and comets.”
In these two pictures, marked in a red box, is (516560) Annapolisroyal, a small planet discovered by David Balam. One is a white background with black stars and galaxies. The other is white with stars and galaxies on a black background. This is one of 15 images acquired of the object on the night of Dec. 12, 2006. There are a dozen or so stars and all the rest (fuzzy objects) are very, very distant galaxies, some as far away at 10 billion light years.