Two asteroids become Irish rock legends
(CNN) -- No word on whether they are green or not, but two asteroids have been given Irish names just in time for St. Patrick's Day.
Ardmacha and Armaghobs, discovered by leading asteroid hunter Eleanor Helin, received their new designated titles from the International Astronomical Union to recognize Irish contributions to space research.
The first asteroid was given the original name of the town of Armagh in Northern Ireland, which has hosted the Armagh Observatory since 1790. Ardmacha is the ancient Gaelic name for the city, which tradition holds St. Patrick founded.
"The City of Armagh is steeped in history. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland and home of the venerable Armagh Observatory," announced an International Astronomical Union citation.
According to legend, St. Patrick chose Ardmacha as the center of his mission in Ireland, building his main church on one of its seven hills in 445.
Ardmacha is a main-belt asteroid that revolves around the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is estimated to be about 6.2 miles (10 km) across.
The second asteroid honors the observatory itself, today a modern facility that often scans the skies in search of celestial objects near Earth.
Armaghobs is a Mars-approaching object with a slightly more unstable orbit, meaning that it could possibly collide with the Earth in the distant future. It is about 3.1 miles (5 km) in size.
Helin, who tracks asteroids near Earth for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has often collaborated with Armagh astronomers. In 1997 she discovered these two particular space rocks, first known by the scientifically dry designations of 1987 QF6 and 1987 OT.
"The asteroids were named to honor the rich heritage of the ancient city of Armagh, and noteworthy contributions from the 200-year-old observatory," she said in a statement.
The International Astronomical Union published the new asteroid names in the January 2001 Minor Planet Circular.
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