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The London physicist is immortalized by his colleagues with asteroid namesakes ocn news

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Western University physicist and professor Pauline Barmby is very familiar with space objects. When he found out that an asteroid was named after him, it was a welcome new discovery.

The asteroid, first discovered by Canadian astronomer Paul Weigert in 2006, was then classified as 281067. Now, if someone looks at the top of a space rock at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, it’s called Barmby.

Profile picture of Pauline Barmby
Professor Pauline Barmby of the University of Western Ontario. (UWO Faculty of Science)

“It’s cool, I have to say,” said Barmby. “Our work always involves this connection to the larger universe, and I’m studying things that are much more distant than asteroids. To have that connection to something you can stand on, it’s kind of a different feeling.”

Barmby’s namesake asteroid is considered small in the world of astrophysics.

“There are very small asteroids and only a few really big ones,” Barmby said. “The really big ones were found a long time ago, but as our technology improves, the size of the asteroids you can find keeps getting smaller. The one with my number is six kilometers across.”

Even if you are considered a minor star, having your name is a unique honor.

“The important thing is to know the person who gets a bunch of these things. Whoever gets them gets naming rights,” said Barmby.
However, there are strict rules regarding those naming rights. There can be no star named “Poilievre” or “Trudeau” while in office, for example, or anything named after a beloved pet.

Having an asteroid named after you also doesn’t give you any other rights over the asteroid.

“The rules about who gets to search for celestial bodies and things like space mines are space laws that people work hard to find,” Barmby said.

However, being named after an asteroid has a very personal meaning for Barmby.

“It’s a good way to see if what we’re doing right now might be out of date or replaced by something someone will do in the future,” he said. “It’s a way of saying ‘yes, I was here, and yes, I did something interesting.’

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