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'Out Of This World' Honour for Renowned Astronomer

02.08.2006
Planet named after former University of Leicester scientist

A distinguished academic who for two decades headed astronomy research at the University of Leicester has received a distinctive honour- by having a minor planet named after him.

The 'out of this world' accolade has been conferred on Professor Jack Meadows -the second academic associated with Leicester to gain the distinction. Professor Ken Pounds of the Department of Physics and Astronomy also has an asteroid named after him.

The International Astronomers' Union (IAU) has bestowed the honour on Professor Meadows, who lives in Seagrave, Leicestershire. The official name of the minor planet is Asteroid 4600 Meadows.

Speaking of the honour Professor Meadows said: 'I am delighted to think that there is an object in the solar system that will carry my name long after I am dead.'

Professor Meadows is a former Head of Astronomy and History of Science at the University of Leicester. During his time here he was responsible for initiating the programme for detecting fast moving objects using the infrared survey satellite IRAS. He also carried out the first ultraviolet survey of minor planets using the IUE satellite.

One of his former students is noted astronomer and broadcaster Heather Couper who is also an honorary graduate of the University of Leicester.

Professor Meadows added: "

Professor Meadows also organised the University team that successfully looked for fragments of the Barwell meteorite which fell on Christmas Eve 1965. He has written a book, coming out in the autumn, called 'The future of the universe' - which has one chapter devoted to the future of collisions in the solar system.

Professor Ken Pounds paid tribute to Professor Meadows' contribution to Astronomy and science communications: " Jack is certainly more fitted to having a named asteroid than I ever was given his strong contributions in solar system research and historical astronomy."

After leaving Leicester, Professor Meadows became Professor of Library and Information Studies at Loughborough University.

The award to Professor Jack Meadows by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) came through its Committee for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN). This naming includes a short citation which has been published in the Minor Planet Circular:

(4600) Meadows = 1985 RE4

Discovered 1985 Sept. 10 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
Jack Meadows (b. 1934), now retired from the Department of Information and Library Studies at Loughborough University, was responsible for initiating the program for detecting fast-moving objects using the infrared survey satellite IRAS. He also carried out the first ultraviolet survey of minor planets using the IUE satellite.

Asteroid 4600 Meadows is 15-20 miles in diameter. It lies at a distance of some three times the Earth's distance from the Sun. It is actually a piece of a larger asteroid that was involved in a catastrophic collision earlier in the lifetime of the solar system. Its orbit does not currently cross the Earth's orbit. However, asteroid orbits are continually being moved about by gravitational pulls from Jupiter, so it is impossible to say what will happen in the distant future.

The planet is in a 5.23-year elliptical orbit around the sun. The orbit is inclined by 11 degrees to the ecliptic plane (the plane of the earth's orbit about the sun). You will need a telescope to see this minor planet.

You can see its orbit diagram at http://www.planetky.cz/orb_view.php3?astnum=4600

Alex Jelley | alfa
Further information:
http://www.le.ac.uk

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