May 2011

(268242) Pebble

My wife has had a minor planet named after her. This is the official naming citation, written by the planet's discoverer, Jim Bedient:

(268242) Pebble = 2005 JW1

Discovered 2005 May 4 by J. Bedient at Haleakala-Faulkes Telescope North.

Pebble Johnson (b. 19xx) is an innovative teacher of middle-school science and technology in Forsyth County, Georgia. She uses astronomy to heighten interest and excitement in the physical sciences among her students.

The naming citation was published in MPC # 75106:

Jim also wrote the following in an email::

On May 4, 2005, I was observing with the 2.2m Faulkes Telescope-North on Haleakala, Maui.  While observing an asteroid on the NEO list, I observed another object in the background.  I performed astrometric observations on succeeding nights, and it received the provisional designation 2005 JW1. After following it for several years, its orbit has been accurately determined, and a few months ago it received its permanent designation, (268242). Under International Astronomical Union rules, this made it eligible for naming, and of the privileges of discovering a minor planet is naming it. A couple of months ago I submitted a name proposal to the IAU's Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature. Last week I was informed that the proposed name had been approved, and it is hereafter known as (268242) Pebble, in honor of my good friend Dr. Pebble Johnson.


With the boom in minor planet discoveries in the last decade, due the advent of more sophisticated techniques, particularly larger telescopes and electronic detectors, naming citations are required to be considerably briefer than they once were allowed to be.  I really couldn't wax poetic about meeting Pebble ten years ago at Dr. Karen Meech's TOPS workshops in Hawaii, how she became a very dear friend, how I helped with her Ph.D thesis, and all the things, small and large, that go into forming a strong friendship. Placing her name in perpetuity on this small piece of solar system real estate is just an insignificant monument to a person with a very large heart.  I am honored to know her and to be able to make this gesture.