Two asteroids have been given Irish names in time for St.
Patrick’s Day.

Discovered in July 1987 by famed asteroid hunter and
planetary astronomer Eleanor Helin of the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., the asteroids have been
officially christened by the International Astronomical Union
and honor Irish contributions to astronomical research.

One asteroid is named for the Armagh Observatory in
Northern Ireland, which is active in the studies of near-Earth
objects. The 10,502nd asteroid found, it is called ArmaghObs.
Its official designation was 1987 OT.

Another, formerly 1987 QF6, was given the ancient Gaelic
name for the town of Armagh, which St Patrick founded in 445
A.D. as “Ardmacha.” The Armagh Observatory lies on the
outskirts of the town.

Helin, the principal investigator of JPL’s Near-Earth
Asteroid Tracking program, (called NEAT), said that she has
had a long association with the Armagh Observatory and she
named the asteroids in part to honor that collaboration, and
the observatory staff members who have made many contributions
to asteroid research. “We’ve been working together since the
early 70’s, and I named an asteroid in 1975 for their
distinguished Estonian-Irish astronomer E.J. Opik, who was a
resident astronomer for 33 years,” said Helin. “The asteroids
were named to honor the rich heritage of the ancient city of
Armagh, and noteworthy contributions from the 200-year-old

The asteroid names were published in the January 2001
Minor Planet Circular of the International Astronomical Union.

The NEAT project is managed by JPL for NASA’s Office of
Space Science. JPL is managed by the California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA.