Discovered on October 28 1991, and sitting in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, this minor planet has – until now – been known as the relatively uninspiring “(6196) 1991 UO4”.
But now, thanks to a team of Australians, its name is Bernard.
Bernardbowen, to be exact – named after the founding chairman of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) Dr Bernard Bowen.
Based at ICRAR, theSkyNet has been running since 2011 and sees citizen scientists donating their spare computing power to help Australian astronomers uncover the mysteries of the Universe.
Its 50,000-odd volunteers entered an International Astronomical Union (IAU) contest to name planets beyond our Solar System. Project founders ICRAR also won the right to name a minor planet within our Solar System.
Bernardbowen was one of 17 minor planets to be christened. A minor planet is an astronomical object in direct orbit around the Sun that is neither a planet nor exclusively classified as a comet. Minor planets can be dwarf planets, asteroids, trojans, centaurs, Kuiper belt objects, and other trans-Neptunian objects.
Other newly named minor planets include Kagura, after a traditional Shinto theatrical dance, and Mehdia, which is equivalent to the Arabic word for gift.
Dr Bowen is renowned as one of the country’s finest science administrators and has presided over scientific advances ranging from the oceans to the skies. He was instrumental in the establishment of ICRAR in 2009, and helped bring part of the Square Kilometre Array telescope to Western Australia.
A full list of the citation of the minor planets can be found at the IAU Minor Planet Circular.