The International Astronomical Union has just attributed the discovery of two asteroids to amateur astronomers from a small village in Lourages, south of Hauts-Garonne. From now on, one of these asteroids will bear the name Bélesta, and the other the name of their union.
Since 1996, Patrick Martinez has been one of the five founding members of the Adagio Association (Editor’s Note: Association for the Development of Amateurs for a Large Observational Tool) running the Belesta Observatory in Lauragais, this small village of about a hundred inhabitants, between Revel and Villefranche-de-Lauragais. He is also one of the discoverers of two asteroids, which fell from 2007. He looks at this extraordinary event.
“Searching for asteroids is a daunting task, because these celestial bodies are difficult to distinguish from stars. The only difference we can really notice on our level is that they are moving,” he explains. Through regular observations of the night sky, astronomers can hope to find the solid mass, but it is a long process. The International Astronomical Union first requires two nights of observation, in order to compare the location of specific celestial bodies. If we agree, then a temporary number will be assigned to these celestial bodies, but only after several years of observation can we truly determine whether the celestial body is really a new discovery. Then the International Astronomical Union registers it with a final number and its discoverer is authorized to give a baptismal name to the asteroid. He adds.
Thus, at the end of 2021, two of the first asteroids discovered in Pelesta in 2008 were definitively registered and attributed to this observatory. Then the members of the association decided to baptize the first “Belista” in honor of the village of Laurajes, which hosts the observatory, and the second “Adagio” in honor of the association. The 30 members of the Society take care of the observatory, which houses an 82 cm telescope, one of the most powerful amateur telescopes in France.
If this telescope was installed at Pic du Midi, this telescope would be the third in terms of the diameter of the site. Research work is carried out in cooperation with professional astronomers, and since 2018, it was agreed to connect the Pelesta Observatory with the French Astronomical Society. To celebrate the event, an asteroid baptism will take place on June 6 at 9 pm in the village, accompanied by a reception and a visit to the observatory.
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