'Cosmic shoutout' for Thunder Bay; asteroid now bears name of Ontario city
"We have immortality, we'll forever be remembered" says city group of International Astronomical Union honour
The city of Thunder Bay, Ont., is getting a "cosmic shoutout" from the International Astronomical Union, which has accepted a proposal to name an asteroid after the city.
"It's tremendously exciting", said Maureen Nadin, the chair of the exoplanet naming committee for the Thunder Bay Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The asteroid, formerly known as 1942 TB, will now be known as 11780 Thunder Bay.
"I think its a wonderful demonstration of the fact that Thunder Bay has a very active and vibrant astronomy community. We're all volunteers so everyone in the club works to develop outreach programs to involve the public in the joys of viewing the night sky, so now we're recognized for that, we're on the celestial map,"she said.
The honour of naming the asteroid dates back to 2015 when the Thunder Bay Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada was one of 20 groups to win the union's NameExoWorld's contest.
The northwestern Ontario group suggested Veritate (Truth) and Spe (Hope) for a star and its companion planet in the constellation of Andromeda, and the union approved.
"That was exciting enough, but one of the unexpected bonuses that came out of that was that we were given an opportunity to name what's called a minor planet, generally known as asteroids," said Nadin.
"We very quickly came up with the idea 'why not give a cosmic shoutout to our hometown'?"
But the Thunder Bay chapter had to wait months to find out if their suggestion for the asteroid would be approved.
"They wanted the submissions to be one name and they weren't sure they could accept two names," she said.
Months went by and "we didn't hear anything, we didn't hear anything" and then finally, nearly a year after the proposal was submitted, the union granted its approval.
"It means, I guess, we have immortality. We'll forever be remembered. Hundreds of years from now, people will be looking back and looking at an asteroid named Thunder Bay."
The asteroid is about five kilometres in diameter, and is part of an asteroid belt in orbit between Mars and Jupiter. It can only be seen with a powerful telescope.