One more Jesuit has had an asteroid named for him.
Fr Chris Corbally, a stellar astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, has had his name attached to a rocky body in the asteroid belt that orbits the sun in slightly less than four years.
The honour was a surprise, Fr Corbally said.
“I’m not a kind of an asteroid guy” like some of his colleagues at the observatory, he said. “For me it came a as complete surprise. That’s why it’s kind of nice.”
The particular asteroid, designated 119248 Corbally, is about a mile across in size. It was discovered on 10th September 2001, by Roy Tucker, a recently retired senior engineer from the Imaging Technology Laboratory at the University of Arizona.
Tucker has worked extensively with Vatican astronomers. His work included building and maintaining the charge-coupled device cameras used for digital imaging of celestial objects at the Vatican Advanced Technology Laboratory as well as on telescopes used by Fr Corbally at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory.
Naming an asteroid requires approval from a committee of the International Astronomical Union. Once named, a short citation about the person being honoured is published in a circular from the IAU’s Minor Planet Center.
Asteroids are small rocky bodies that orbit the sun. Thousands of them are located in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. But some have orbits that bring them into other locations in the solar system.
Born in London, Fr Corbally, 74, has been on the Vatican Observatory staff since 1983. He joined the observatory after completing a doctorate degree in astronomy from the University of Toronto. He was vice director of the Vatican Observatory Research Group until 2012.
Picture: Jesuit Fr Chris Corbally, an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory, celebrates Mass for members of the facility’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop at the Redemptorist Renewal Center on 13th January 2016, in Tucson, Arizona. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec).