The latest asteroid discovered at Fabra Observatory is named after the UB professor Jorge Núñez
The asteroid 1941 WA has been named (4298) Jorgenunez. This celestial body, one of the minor planets in the main asteroid belt of the Solar System –located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter-, is named after Jorge Núñez de Murga director of the Fabra Observatory astronomical observatory of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Barcelona (RACAB) and member of the ICCUB and the FQA department of the University of Barcelona.
This asteroid was discovered on November 17, 1941, in Fabra Observatory, by Isidre Pòlit i Buxareu, who was also professor of Astronomy of the UB and director of the Astronomical Area of the Fabra Observatory between 1937 and 1957. Pòlit gave name to another asteroid, the 1708 Polit, discovered in 1929 by Josep Comas i Solà.
The asteroid (4298) Jorgenunez was the last asteroid to be discovered in Fabra Observatory. It has an orbital period of 5.3 years around the Sun, which corresponds to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and it has a 16.5 km diameter, quite big for these kinds of celestial objects. The technique they used to look for asteroids, similar to the current one, consisted on making two expositions, separated by a spacetime. According to Jorge Núñez, “each object shows two images which are almost vertically put; however, the asteroid’s two images show an inclination of 45º between them, thus different from the rest of the objects (background stars)”. This shows that “it is a moving object, that is, an asteroid”.
The naming process of an asteroid can last two decades. It starts when two observations of a potentially new object are done and it is told to the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Then a provisional designation of the object is done, and its final name is not confirmed until there are enough observations to verify this finding. Regarding the asteroid (4298) Jorgenunez, there have been a total of 1.677 observations from 1941 (its discovery) to 2017.
The asteroid’s file card of the Minor Planet Center provides information on the main features of this celestial body and it describes the contribution of the researcher after whom it’s named: “The physician and astronomer Jorge Núñez is mostly interested in the robotic observations and CCD imaging, an area in which he has contributed to with several reviewed articles. Since 2002, he has been member of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Barcelona”.
Núñez is a permanent researcher at the Institute of Science Cosmos of the UB (ICUB-IEEC) and professor of the the Department of Quantum Physics and Astrophysics of the University of Barcelona. He is also a member of the IAU’s Commission A1 “Astrometry”. He was visiting lecturer at Yale University and made a scientific stay at the University of Caliornia – Berkeley. He promoted the robotic telescope Fabra-ROA Montsec, located in the Astronomical Park Montsec, where researchers study space debris, exoplanets, potentially hazardous objects and sources of high-energy emission, among others. He has been director of the Fabra Observatory since February 2015.