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RAS PN 07/18 (NAM14): SCHOOLCHILDREN NAME NEWLY DISCOVERED ASTEROID 'SNOWDONIA'

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 April 2010 19:01
Published on Monday, 16 April 2007 00:00
Schools from across the UK have named a new asteroid discovered using the Faulkes Telescope Project’s facility in Hawaii. Since early April 2007, a mountain-sized asteroid found between Mars and Jupiter has been officially named Snowdonia, as a tribute to the beauty of this famous Welsh region.
The asteroid was officially recognised as part of a Near-Earth Object observing programme with German astronomers Lothar Kurtze and Felix Harmouth. UK schoolchildren were recruited by the Faulkes Telescope (FT) Education Director David Bowdley in spring 2006. They conducted the follow-up observations necessary to better understand the asteroid’s orbit and ensure its recognition by astronomy authorities.

David Bowdley said: "Helping to study this asteroid and choose a name for it has been a great inspiration for the students. Working alongside real scientists has shown how much more can be achieved when people collaborate. In future we will be running many more projects like this where students work alongside astronomers to achieve real scientific outcomes."

Jay Tate from the Spaceguard Centre in Mid Wales is the project’s Near-Earth Object scientific advisor. He said: “Students working with the Faulkes Telescope Project produce some of the most important data on asteroids in the UK. Kids love it because they can watch things move, and more importantly because it’s real – a far cry from many sterile classroom activities.”

The schoolchildren had the final say on three name suggestions made by the German astronomers, and ‘Snowdonia’ was the clear winner. The name acknowledges the location of the FT Operations Centre at Cardiff University, as well as drawing attention to Snowdonia National Park.

The schools involved included: The Leys School in Cambridge, West Monmouth School in Pontypool, St David's Catholic College in Cardiff, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury, University College School in London, Belmont House School in Glasgow and The Kingsley School in Leamington Spa.

Kerry Pendergast teaches Physics and Astronomy at West Monmouth School. He said: "Observing and naming the new asteroid added an extra dimension to students’ studies and helped them feel part of scientific discovery. When they had the chance to vote for a Welsh name there really was no competition!"
IMAGES:

Asteriod 'Snowdonia'

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Orbit of asteriod 'Snowdonia'

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For images of the Faulkes Telescopes, see:
http://faulkes-telescope.com/image_gallery/?album=Faulkes_Telescope_North

Background information:

1. Facts about the asteroid Snowdonia: Located in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, it is between 3 and 6 km in diameter, and has a rotation period of 5.3 years. Prior to designation as ‘Snowdonia’ it was known as 2004 WB10.

Official citation for the asteroid:
‘In the Northwestern region of Wales a range of scenic landscapes from sandy beaches to wooded valleys and clear blue lakes to rugged mountains can be found. Snowdon, the highest peak in England and Wales, dominates the horizon of North Wales.’

2. The Faulkes Telescope Project aims to provide free access to robotic telescopes and a fully supported education programme to encourage teachers and students to engage in research-based science education.
The Faulkes Telescope Project was founded by Dr Martin (Dill) Faulkes in 2004, and operations are based at the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University. Dr Faulkes had a vision of providing school children in the UK with access to the telescopes via the Internet.  He built two observatories, one in Hawaii and the other in North Australia and today, over 400 schools in the UK are registered in the project.  In 2005, Mr Wayne Rosing, former Senior-Vice President of Google Inc., a key figure in the IT industry with a passion for astronomy, telescope making and electronics, bought the Faulkes Telescope Project. Rosing aims to build a network of telescopes in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres that will be available to school children and researchers throughout the world.


Find out more at: http://www.faulkes-telescope.com

3. The Spaceguard Centre aims to develop and maintain a world-class facility for astronomical research and science education with a view to furthering the goals of Public Understanding of Science and the Spaceguard Project. Located in Knighton, Powys, the centre focuses on the threat posed to mankind by the impact of an asteroid or comet which is now widely recognised as one of the most significant risks to human civilisation.
http://www.spaceguarduk.com/centre.htm


Dr Paul Roche

Faulkes Telescope Project Director
Mr David Bowdley
Faulkes Telescope Project Education Director
Both can be reached by contacting Rachel Dodds on 07989 333487 or through the NAM Press office between Monday 16th and Wednesday 18th April.

Also available for comment:
Mr Jay Tate
Director of The Spaceguard Centre UK
Llanshay Lane, Knighton, Powys  LD7 1LW
Telephone: 01547 520247
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.spaceguarduk.com/centre.htm