Guest post by Prof. Ben Murdin: Asteroid Murdin

For more 15 years I taught the level 3 Physics of Stars course at Surrey, because of my lifelong amateur interest in astronomy. This was kindled because my father, Paul Murdin, is an astronomer. Some of the best memories I have from childhood are of going with him to observatories, either looking up at the glorious colours of the night sky from the top of La Palma, or inside playing my first computer game (a Star Trek game that in 1978 involving typing instructions to fire photon torpedoes on punched cards, feeding them into the reader and waiting for a the punched response card telling me if I hit the Klingons).

Paul is famous because he discovered the first stellar black hole, Cygnus X1. All confirmed black holes are at galactic centres, and confirmation that Cygnus X1 is also a black hole was the subject of a famous bet between Kip Thorne and Stephen Hawking (they have now agreed that it really is a black hole).

This summer, an asteroid discovered by observers in Arizona in 2004 and catalogued as 128562, was named ‘Murdin’ by the International Astronomical Union this year, in honour of Paul. Asteroid Murdin is indicated by the red arrow in the image. The dark bands in the image are due to the light being directed to an instrument for analysis.

Paul said “It orbits between Mars and Jupiter, and, I am glad to say, is unlikely ever to crash into the Earth”. It feels like he is now immortal, and I can’t think of anything more cool. Much better than having a boat named after you like the queen…..