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Southampton astronomer has asteroid named in his honour for ongoing scientific legacy

Published: 23 June 2017
9015 Coe asteroid, named after Professor Malcolm Coe

Professor Malcolm Coe from the University of Southampton’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has had an asteroid named in his honour. This is in recognition of his decades of contributions to the field of astronomy.

He receives the tribute after a nomination for the asteroid, which was recently found to be orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, was approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The asteroid, now known as 9015 Coe, is a similar size to the Isle of Wight and is believed to consist of a dark carbon dust.

Malcolm joins an elite club to have had one of the universe’s thousands of asteroids receive their name, with other honourees including J.R.R Tolkien, Bruce Springsteen and the members of Monty Python.

“This comes as a complete surprise to me,” he says. “I am extremely overwhelmed after 40 years as a professional astronomer to have such a lasting memorial in the sky. This is a very poignant acknowledgement of my research.”

9015 Coe was first discovered in 1985 but has not been able to receive a name until its orbit was recently identified. Located in an asteroid belt in the heart of our Solar System, it is approximately 16km in diameter and has an orbital year the equivalent of four and a half Earth years. It cannot be seen by the naked eye but is visible through good amateur telescopes.

Naming is regulated by the IAU and is only awarded once the asteroid is awarded a permanent designation. 9015 Coe’s nomination was put forward by the Deputy Director of the Minor Planet Center in Boston, USA. Malcolm’s research at the University of Southampton focuses on objects much further away in the universe; he investigates X-ray binaries in the Milky Way and Magellanic Cloud galaxies.

You can discover more details about the 9015 Coe asteroid through the NASA website.

This image comes from the WISE project - University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology - funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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