Three godesses and a random guy
tl;dr - Evi Lerchner (4aR) has recently used the telescope of the 'torretta' observatory to hunt down the bright asteroid '18 Melpomene'. By chance there happened to be three more asteroids in the same field. One enigmatic body was less than 17 mag bright.
There are almost 800,000 known asteroids in our solar system. Most of them have very cryptic names like the Earth's trojan asteroid 2010 TK7, or the recently discovered near Earth binary asteroid 2020 BX12. On the other hand, 22,000 of the bigger ones have quite common names. They are named after gods, scientists, musicians, artists or just ordinary people. So roaming above your heads you can find Curie, Freddiemercury, Monty Python, James Bond or even Mr. Spock.
Last winter Evi Lerchner (4aR) took part in a challenge proposed by our school's library. The task was to thoroughly inspect an endless long list of asteroid names and extract all of the bodies that were named after writers, dead or alive. Evi found 27 (!) she knew and had read books of, among them Tolkien, Hemingway, Anne Frank, Conan Doyle, Rowling, Lindgren, Umberto Eco and many more.
In recognition of her efforts the astronomy group awarded her with an observing session at 'torretta' observatory, which due to the ongoing curfew took place remotely on the 8 March 2021. She chose to go for the main belt asteroid '18 Melpomene', named after the Greek muse of tragedy, who at that time was roaming unsuspectingly in the constellation Cancer. However, the evening did not end in tragedy at all. Au contrair!
Three other asteroids revealed themselves when 'blinking' the frames. These were '76 Freia', godess of love and marriage in Norse mythology, '2546 Libitina', godess of funerals and burial and at last a dim and inconspicuous object bearing the name '6452 Johneuller'.
Now, who the heck is John Euller? 😳
Wait for it.
|The star field in Cancer Evi observed. The four arrows indicate the asteroids she caught.|
|Evi's four asteroids in 'detail'. Due to the large field of view the |
bodies did not move much during the observation.
|Home office for Evi Lerchner and Christof Wiedemair|
After some research the veils around the enigmatic stranger slowly thinned out. The asteroid was discovered in 1991 by the professional astronomer Thomas J. Balonek from Colgate University at the 'Foggy Bottom observatory' in the state of New York. When it comes to naming an asteroid, the discoverer holds the right to propose a name to the International Astronomical Union and Mr. Balonek by doing so chose 'John Euller'.
On the website of the Minor Planet Center the following information about his proposal can be read:
(6452) Johneuller = 1991 HA
Named in honor of John E. Euller, a dedicated and highly respected teacher of high-school physics. Educated at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Buffalo, he taught physics and chemistry over a 33-year career. From 1959 to 1984 he taught physics at Eastridge High School in Irondequoit, NY, where his animated demonstrations inspired generations of students. He has had life-long interests in science and travel.
Now from the curricula of Thomas J. Balonek one can learn that he graduated in physics in 1974 at Cornell University, which makes it plausible that Euller was his physics teacher at school. This finally leads me to my conclusion:
If one day one of my former or future students reads these lines and serendipitously gets to name an asteroid, I herby formally declare to humbly and gratefully accept the lovely gesture. 💝