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St Patrick's Day Gift to Armagh

Issued by Armagh Observatory, 12 March 2001

Politicians, government officials, astronomers and other distinguished Photograph of Guests guests visited Armagh Observatory today to participate in a ceremony marking a unique event: the International Astronomical Union has announced that two asteroids are to be named after the City of Armagh and the Armagh Observatory.

These asteroids were discovered in July 1987 by one of the USA's leading asteroid hunters, Dr Eleanor "Glo" Helin, and the announcement of the names follows a visit of Dr Helin to Armagh last August.

The first asteroid, numbered 10501, is called "Ardmacha", after the ancient name of the City of Armagh. The second, numbered 10502, is called "Armaghobs", after the Armagh Observatory. The citations read:

"The City of Armagh is steeped in history. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland and home of the venerable Armagh Observatory. Tradition relates that St Patrick chose what used to be called Ard Macha as the centre of his mission in Ireland, building his main church on one of the seven hills of Armagh in 445."


"Armagh Observatory, founded in 1790 by Archbishop Richard Robinson, is a modern astronomical research institute with a rich heritage that includes T.R. Robinson's cup-anemometer, Dreyer's NGC Catalogue, Lindsay's Armagh-Dunsink-Harvard telescope, and the work of the Estonian astronomer E.J. Öpik."

ArmaghObs CertificateArdMacha Certificate

The simultaneous naming of two asteroids for a city and its observatory is a unique event and a recognition of the high esteem in which Northern Ireland's astronomers are held by the international astronomical community. That named after the City of Armagh, Ardmacha, is a main-belt asteroid that revolves around the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is estimated to be about 10 kilometres across. That named after the Observatory, Armaghobs, is a Mars-approaching object with a slightly more unstable orbit meaning that it could possibly collide with the Earth in the very distant future. It is about 5 kilometres in size.

Armagh Observatory has a long association with investigations of the solar system in general, and minor planets in particular. The naming of these two minor planets brings to more than a dozen the number of asteroids associated with Armagh or the Armagh Observatory, a highly exceptional tally. Ten have been named after past or present members of staff of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium. Among them are Ernst Öpik, Research Associate from 1948 to 1981 and Acting Director 1974 to 1976, Patrick Moore, the first Director of the Armagh Planetarium, and astronomers David Asher, Fabio Migliorini, Bill Napier, and the Director, Mark Bailey.

Armagh Asteroids
Image of Asteroids
Select image for full size version

Presenatation Painting
Painting presented to the Observatory by the Armagh District Council

See also:
Press Release from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
CNN News Item

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory (Tel.: 028-3752-2928, FAX: 028-3752-7174); e-mail jmf@star.arm.ac.uk. For Armagh Observatory details, see http://www.arm.ac.uk/


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