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Observatory Astronomer Honoured by International Astronomical Union

John Butler with the Calver Telescope
Dr John Butler making adjustments to the recently restored
Calver 18-inch telescope at the Armagh Observatory.
The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center recently named an asteroid after Armagh astronomer, Dr John Butler.

The citation, published in the Minor Planet Circulars, 2005 December 15 reads: (26891) Johnbutler = 1995 CC2. Discovered 1995 Feb. 7 by D. J. Asher at Siding Spring. Christopher John Butler (b. 1940) has worked on cool stars, the effects of solar variability on climate, and preserving Armagh Observatory's scientific heritage for future generations. He is well known for his active involvement in the community of Armagh and for discovering an exceptional flare on HD 6090 ("Butler's star").

In astronomical circles, the discoverer of a minor planet has the right to name the object. By contrast, a comet is usually named after the person (or persons) who first discovers it e.g. Comet Hale-Bopp, or the one who first computes its orbit e.g. Comet Halley. A star may be named after someone who has carried out a significant amount of research on it, but nowadays most stars are labelled only by their coordinates or catalogue positions. The selling of star names for commercial gain is professionally discouraged, and such names have no formal or official validity.

John Butler was born in Cambridgeshire. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree from the University of Edinburgh and obtained his PhD degree from the University of Dublin in 1971 with a thesis on the Cepheid Variables in the Magellanic Clouds.

He worked for a number of years at Dunsink Observatory before joining the staff of the Armagh Observatory in 1973. His research interests at Armagh over the last few years has been mainly on solar-terrestrial relationships, especially on how the Sun influences the Earth's climate. For this he has been utilizing the 210-year long meteorological series maintained by the Armagh Observatory. He has investigated the influence of solar activity and cosmic rays on global warming and terrestrial clouds.

Another main area of his research has been in investigating optical stellar flares, especially in so-called 'spotted stars'. These are stars whose light output varies due to the presence of large dark spots on their surfaces, akin to sunspots.

In the last few years, John has been foremost in supervising the restoration of the Armagh Observatory's main historic telescopes. He is a well-known local figure in Armagh with his varied contributions to the music, art and film scenes of the City. He has recently retired from the Armagh Observatory.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk

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Last Revised: 2006 January 3rd
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