John McConnell, Kathleen Corvan, Pat Corvan, Terry Moseley and Mark Bailey
The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center recently named an asteroid after local astronomer Patrick Corvan, (8515) Corvan.
The citation, published in Minor Planet Circular 54173, reads: "(8515) Corvan = 1991 RJ Discovered 1991 Sept. 4 by R.H. McNaught at Siding Spring. Patrick G. Corvan has links with Armagh Observatory dating back to his school days. He is an avid observer whose enthusiasm for astronomy is readily communicated to others. His book and slide collections, as well as stories about the astronomers who have worked at or visited Armagh, are in much demand."
Patrick Corvan's association with the Armagh Observatory started over half a century ago when he became acquainted with the then Director, Dr Eric Mervyn Lindsay, during his second Observatory visit on the evening of 1953 April 21. Eric Lindsay, a keen populariser of astronomy, introduced Patrick to the Observatory's 10-inch Grubb refractor on that public Open Night. So, after listening to Lindsay describe the Moon, Saturn and its rings, and a double star system in Gemini, Patrick, aged thirteen, started on a life-long study of astronomy, especially historical astronomy. Patrick gradually acquired an understanding of the development of astronomy from earliest times to present day research.
In 1954, Patrick received a telescope mirror-making kit from Patrick Moore, and with the approval and encouragement of Lindsay, he was permitted to use the Observatory workshop to begin work on his first mirror with guidance from a visiting Harvard graduate student, Franklin E. Kameny. Patrick received the praises of Lindsay and Dr Ernst Öpik upon completion of the project.
Lindsay gave Patrick tuition in the operation and use of the Observatory's 10-inch refractor and he has been using the instrument ever since. In the mid-1960s, he used the telescope for planetary observations with Patrick Moore (then Director of the new Armagh Planetarium) and Terry Moseley. During the 1965-1966 opposition of Jupiter, they used the 10-inch telescope and several instruments at Patrick Moore's private observatory to obtain transit timings of certain of Jupiter's atmospheric features and some satellite events.
Patrick was appointed to the staff of the Armagh Planetarium on 1975 December 1. He became involved in conducting the monthly public viewing sessions with the Planetarium's 16-inch Cassegrain reflector. His services were much in demand in answering questions on astronomy from the general public and researchers during his entire career at the Planetarium. Patrick retired from the Armagh Planetarium on 2005 March 17 after almost thirty years in post.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk
Last Revised: 2011 January 4th