Ottawa astronomer over the moon to have asteroid named after him

The International Astronomical Union is renaming Astroid 22406 to recognise Ottawa astronomer Gary Boyle's work educating the public about the wonders of night sky.

Asteroid 22406 has been officially renamed Garyboyle

A fellow stargazer nominated Ottawa astronomer Gary Boyle to have an asteroid named after him because of his work educating the public about the night sky. (Submitted)

Just call him Ottawa's resident rock star.

The International Astronomical Union is renaming Asteroid 22406 to recognise local astronomer Gary Boyle's work educating the public about the wonders of the night sky.

For more than 20 years, Boyle has been working as an astronomy educator, presenting lectures at schools, provincial park campgrounds and retirement homes.

"I really try to bring astronomy down to the average person to try to explain what's happening," Boyle told Alan Neal, host of CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"And entice people to go outside to experience Mother Nature's greatest show."

Discovered in 1995

A few years ago a fellow stargazer asked Boyle how he'd feel about having an asteroid named after him.

"In two milliseconds I said yes," Boyle recalled.

The process involved sending in a resume of the public outreach work he had done. The naming didn't become official until Friday, April 14.

Asteroid 22406, discovered by astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona in 1995, would henceforth be known as Garyboyle.

The asteroid that now bears his name is relatively small and extremely far away, Boyle said. 

"It's nothing that we can see. It's extremely faint—about 100 times fainter than Pluto," Boyle explained.

Garyboyle orbits the sun once every three and a half years. Even at its closest to Earth, the asteroid will still be more than 327 million kilometres away, Boyle said.

"So it will never even come close enough to our planet to hit."

Asteroid naming serious process

The Union's Minor Planet Centre is the official body that monitors and names orbiting asteroids and comets.

According its website, naming an asteroid can take decades.

The easiest way is to discover one yourself, otherwise there's a fifteen-person judging panel and a list of rules, including that the proposed name be 16 characters or less and non-offensive.

Boyle said he thinks 60 people received the honour on April 14.

"Astronomers, scientists, royalty—even politicians have asteroids named after them."