New asteroid named Hermanus

In a function hosted by Overstrand Mayor Councilor Nicolette Botha-Guthrie on 10th August 2011 a ceremony was held to announce the naming of  the newly-discovered asteroid Hermanus. In the words of John Saunders, Chairman of the Hermanus Astronomy Centre, this is the story of how Hermanus got its own asteroid:

“At one of the early MONET sessions, Rick Hessman via SKYPE from Gottingen and whose “baby” the MONET telescopes are, made a quick comment that now we have mastered MONET maybe we should have an Asteroid named after Hermanus.

That set me thinking and the idea grew within my thoughts over several weeks.

With the idea now gathering some momentum, I e-mailed Dr. Amanda Gulbis in Cape Town, who I knew had been able to name an asteroid as a naming competition as a project with Pinelands school in Capetown, for advice on if and how we could go about it.

Her advice was as follows:-

First, contact someone who has discovered an asteroid and studied its orbit for a few years and then ask for his or her permission to rename it.

In our case one of Amanda contacted one of her close friends David Trilling; a professional astronomer based Tucson, Arizona, to see if he could help. Sure enough David was willing to have Asteroid 260824 he had found in 2005 renamed.

With that in mind, I found that you have to draft a citation to go with the renaming of your asteroid.

In our case my wife Irene and I drafted a four sentence citation and submitted it to Amanda for consideration.

Amanda through her experience explained that it should be just one sentence and so she shortened it as follows:-

The village Hermanuspietersfontein, later shortened to Hermanus, was founded in honour of a man who taught Dutch to farmers’ children. This minor planet is named in recognition of the Hermanus Astronomy Centre’s enthusiasm for astronomy and their dedication to educational outreach in South Africa.


Once this had been agreed, the citation was sent to David Trilling who in turn submitted on our behalf to the Minor Planet Committee in the USA.

The next step was to wait patiently….for approximately three months.

Just over three months later, after a few e-mails, we found that Asteroid 260824 had indeed been renamed “Asteroid Hermanus”.

The asteroid is 2.79 Astronomical Units from the Sun and that is equal to 417.3 million kilometres.

Its orbit is close to circular with an eccentricity of only 0.095.

Its orbit has an inclination 5.13 deg from the lateral ecliptic.

It has a diameter of approximately 1–2 km.

It has a magnitude of 16.6 which means it is very, very faint.

It must be noted that there is only one other Asteroid in South Africa named after a town or city and that is Asteroid Pretoria.

Citation for renaming Asteroid “260824” to “Hermanus”

Click here to download the framed version of the citation presented to Mayor Nicolette Botha-Guthrie

Framed certificates of Honorary Membership to the HAC were given to

  1. To Dr. Amanda Gulbis for her enormous assistance and advice with –

(i)                 MONET

(ii)               ASTEROID HERMANUS

  1. To Steve Kleyn

(i)                 One of the founding members of the HAC and more importantly

(ii)               His donation of the 13.1”, self-made telescope which kick-started the idea for an education centre and observatory for the HAC

(iii)             His vast knowledge and advice as our Technical Expert of all things astronomy

(iv)             His designs for the forthcoming sun dials at Swallow Park



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