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Thunder Bay gets cosmic shoutout

Local astronomy group in 2015 also earned the right to name a star and planet in the Andromeda system and have now named an asteroid after their home town.
A snapshot of near-Earth Asteroids (NASA).

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay is officially an asteroid.

Members of the Thunder Bay chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada on Friday announced the International Astronomical Union has accepted its proposal to named a minor planet after Northwestern Ontario’s largest city.

Formerly known as 1942 TB, it’s now referred to as 11780 Thunder Bay.

The organization’s Maureen Nadin said the IAU two years ago opened up the opportunity to name a series of 30 recently discovered exoplanets, planets which orbit a star other than the sun.

About a year ago the Thunder Bay chapter was successful in naming a star and planet in the Andromeda system.

Their latest success story is a direct result of that, Nadin said.

“What the IAU did, as a bonus to all the winning teams, they gave us the opportunity to name a minor planet, more commonly known as asteroids,” Nadin said, reached by CKPR Radio.

“That’s how this came about.”

Both occasions were pretty cool, she added.

“When our submission was selected for the planet and star we were extremely excited – now we have a poster and it’s all official,” Nadin said.

“When this opportunity came up to name a minor planet, we had expended a lot of time and creativity on naming the star and planet – which are Veritate and Spe, which is Latin for Truth and Hope. So we decided why not give a cosmic shout-out to our home town?”

Consensus on the name was reached very quickly.

The main belt asteroid, approximately five kilometers in diameter, resides between Mars and Jupiter. It was first discovered on Oct. 3, 1942 by Finland’s first female PhD astronomer Liisi Oterman.

“The process took a long time. We didn’t hear back and then we did hear back from them and they said they were hoping for a submission that was one word only,” Nadin said.

“Of course, as you know, Thunder Bay is two words.”

Determined to stick with their original choice, they didn’t hear back from the IAU for months until two days ago, when they were notified their name had been given the green light.

Seeing it from the shores of Lake Superior, isn’t easy.

“You need a really, really big telescope because it’s located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Nadin said having an asteroid named is a rarity. Most are just numbered, although this may be changing.

“The IAU, it seems, is doing a lot more outreach to the public in terms of opening up opportunities to name celestial bodies. We’re now on the celestial map,” Nadin said. “People seem to be enjoying this little tidbit of good news in this crazy world that we live in.”