A Minor Planet Named Nacogdoches

SFA Observatory Images of
Minor Planet Nacogdoches
Wandering through the constellation of Virgo tonight is a tiny world named Nacogdoches.   On October 25, 2000, student Ryan Williams and SFA astronomer Dr. Dan Bruton discovered an asteroid traveling through our solar system.   After a few weeks of careful observation they found that this object was a 4-mile diameter asteroid at a distance of about 236 million miles from Earth.   For two years now the SFA astronomers have been submitting their observations of this asteroid to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

With help from astronomers around the world, enough data was collected on this minor planet to allow astronomers to know precisely where it had been and where it was going.   The asteroid was found to orbit the Sun about half way between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter - a safe distance from Earth.   Early in 2002, SFA astronomers submitted the name "Nacogdoches" to the thirteen-person Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union.   This committee is comprised of professional astronomers (with research interests connected with minor planets and/or comets) from around the world.  

This week we have learned that the name "Nacogdoches" was officially accepted.  

Artist's concept of Minor Planet Nacogdoches

The SFA Observatory (Minor Planet Center Code 740) is part of a growing campaign to search for asteroids.   This research project was supported by an SFA Faculty Research Grant.   The asteroid was discovered using an 18-inch diameter telescope that was originally used by NASA for lunar studies prior to the Apollo program.   This telescope has been in operation at SFA since 1976. The observatory director Dr. Norman Markworth developed the telescope and camera control software.   For more information check out the SFA Observatory page or our Minor Planet Research page.   Here's another artist drawing made by Blake Bouillion, a former SFA student.  

The next public viewing session at the SFA Observatory is scheduled for December 6, 2002 at 7:00PM.

Dan Bruton

The Orbit of Minor Planet Nacogdoches