Armagh Observatory, 7 February 2000:

The former Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) has received an international honour by having its name assigned to a minor planet, (9140) Deni.

Dr Brian Marsden, of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge MA, USA, made the official announcement at a special ceremony at the Armagh Observatory on 9th February, presenting a book, giving information about the asteroid, to the new Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure.

The citation from Minor Planet Circular 34351 states that the minor planet was “Discovered on 1977 October 16 by C. J. van Houten and I. van Houten-Groeneveld on Palomar Schmidt photographic plates taken by T. Gehrels. Named after the Department of Education for Northern Ireland for its support of the Armagh Observatory, where Ernst Öpik carried out seminal work on the collisional evolution and dynamics of small bodies. The DENI has promoted lifelong learning and research across many disciplines, encompassing higher education, schools, museums, recreation and culture. It has sought for many years to advance knowledge and understanding of the natural world, and to provide the means by which as many people as possible may appreciate and continue to develop Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage, its diversity and contributions to the scientific, intellectual and social life of the community.”

Armagh Observatory has a long association with investigations on the solar system in general, and minor planets in particular. This has been rewarded by a number of past and present staff receiving their own asteroids, including Professor Ernst Öpik, Research Associate from 1948 to 1981 and Acting Director 1974-1976, Patrick Moore, the first Director of the Armagh Planetarium, Research Astronomers Drs Chambers and Napier, and Professor Mark Bailey, present Director of the Observatory.

Dr Marsden has been the Director of the International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (since 1968) and Minor Planet Center (since 1978). He is responsible for the dissemination of information on transient events, such as novae and supernovae, and for cataloguing all position and orbit details of asteroids and comets. Dr Marsden will finish his visit to Armagh by delivering a lecture “Spaceguard in the New Millennium” in The Rotunda Theatre, St Patrick’s Trian, Armagh at 8.00 p.m. on the evening of 9th February.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, Tel.: 028-3752-2928.

Last Revised: 11th February 2000
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