Asteroid 30558 Jamesoconnor

By John Flannery, South Dublin Astronomy Society (SDAS)

It is with great pleasure that we can officially tell everyone that another Irish amateur astronomer has been honoured by having an asteroid named after them.

John McConnell, Maire O'Connor, James O'Connor and John O'Neill at the presentation for the naming of asteroid 30558 Jamesoconnor at the IAS/SDAS meeting of 2010 Oct 14. Photo: skywatcher2006

James O'Connor, 61 years a member of the Irish Astronomical Society (IAS), was presented with the award at a meeting of the IAS and SDAS in Gonzaga College in Dublin on Thursday, October 14th.

The citation from the International Astronomical Union reads:

"Irish amateur astronomer James O'Connor (b. 1931) has been a stalwart of the Irish Astronomical Society for sixty years, serving as president, secretary and council member. He has also written a history of the Society covering the years 1937--2006. The name was suggested by J. McConnell."

The asteroid was discovered on 2001 July 16 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) at the Anderson Mesa Station. The asteroid is a Main Belt object orbiting the Sun with a period of 3.31 years.

I'm sure you will all join me in congratulating Jimmy on the award. I have known Jimmy since joining the IAS in 1987 and he has given tremendous service to the Society and supported many individual members making their first steps in the hobby.

The presentation was made by John McConnell who travelled from Northern Ireland on the night. John has worked closely over the past two years with Dr Brian Marsden, Director Emeritus of the Minor Planet Center and Dr Ted Bowell, Principal Investigator of LONEOS, to help bring about this recognition of Jimmy’s contributions to Irish astronomy.

Many other people also deserve mention for their contributions.

Dave Grennan did fantastic background research on the asteroid discovery circumstances and compiled a beautiful framed collage of the asteroid, citation and elements. Dave also found that the asteroid was first captured on images taken in 1991 at Mount Palomar Observatory. Jonathan Bingham also accompanied John McConnell to Dublin for the occasion, and both Liam Smyth and John O'Neill worked in the background to ensure Jimmy would be at the meeting.

Not to forget that Thursday night's gathering also included asteroid discoverer Dave McDonald as well as Dave Grennan who recently discovered a supernova - the first from Ireland, newly designated Observatory Code holder Michael O'Connell, and Dave Gradwell, who gave a superb talk on observing the Sun which included many of his own beautiful images of our nearby star.

All in all, it was one of the best IAS/SDAS meetings in recent memory and replete with so many historic moments. On behalf of Gonzaga Astronomy Club, the IAS, and the SDAS, we also presented Dave Grennan with a memento of his historic achievement in being the first person to discover a supernova from Ireland.

More details about Jimmy's asteroid can be found here – thanks to Terry Moseley who pointed out that some system firewalls may flag the site as containing malicious code. However, this is generally due to firewall rules that are preventing Java from running (to generate an orbit diagram of the asteroid) so it should not be an issue.

- John Flannery

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