Vitebsk’s amateur astronomer discovers asteroid and names it after his teacher
In the early 1990s, an amateur astronomer from Vitebsk, Vitaly Nevsky, built his own observatory 20km from the regional centre. In late April 2009, the enthusiast, crazy about his hobby, was the first in the country to discover an unknown asteroid in the constellation of Virgo. At first, the International Minor Plant Centre (USA) assigned the asteroid a number — 216897; Vitaly then decided to name the new celestial body in honour of his teacher, Vladimir Golubev. The formalities are now settled and the asteroid has officially acquired its name of ‘Golubev’.
I wonder how people feel when their names are used to honour ships, streets and stadiums. If it happens when they’re alive, they must be proud. Imagine knowing that, somewhere in the Universe, you have a ‘twin’ in the shape of a minor planet.
Vladimir Golubev is a senior teacher at Vitebsk’s P. M. Masherov State University’s General Physics and Astronomy Chair. I meet him in the observatory of Vitebsk’s gymnasium No.1, where he heads a club for young astronomers — called Gelios. Mr. Golubev, who has recently celebrated his 69th birthday, doesn’t look like a celebrity — he behaves naturally and, even, modestly.
“I still can’t believe it,” he smiles. “The highest award for an astronomer is to have a celestial body named in your honour. It’s very pleasant that this event happened in the UN’s International Year of Astronomy.”
Golubev was born in Russia and worked at the Ussuriysk Astronomical Observatory of the Far Eastern Research Centre for nine years. There, he was elected a member of the juvenile section bureau at the Central Council of the All-Union Astronomical and Geodesics Society, which co-ordinated the activity of astronomical circles all over the USSR. He was respected by friends and colleagues alike, considered to be a true professional. In 1978, Golubev moved to Vitebsk, where he was heartily welcomed, and began to head an astronomical club at the regional station of young technicians. It was there that he met pupil Vitaly Nevsky.
“In the 9th form, Vitaly made telescopes and perfect drawings of Jupiter with its satellites,” recollects Mr. Golubev. “When he was in the 10th form, he was awarded a diploma at the regional amateur astronomer competition. At that time, I supposed that he would be a success.”
Vitaly Nevsky speaks of his discovery calmly. Of course, it’s the first such case for Belarus, but hundreds of new asteroids are discovered daily all over the globe. As far as the asteroid’s name is concerned, everything worked well. The results of automatic observations were found in the archives of the International Minor Planet Centre, enabling the orbit of this celestial body to be defined more exactly while avoiding the observation over a five year period. Other possible names for the asteroid included ‘Chizhevsky’ (to honour a scientific astronomer born in Belarus) and ‘Vitebsk’ (to honour the native city). When Vitaly found out that an asteroid named ‘Chizhevsky’ was already traversing the Universe, he decided to please his teacher.
“I wanted to express my gratitude to my teacher for everything he has done for me,” explains the amateur astronomer. “He has not only expanded my knowledge but has helped me with my observatory.”
In 1994, Golubev’s team won the 8th meeting of CIS young astronomers. His pupils received a 30cm mirror for a telescope as a prize, which was later donated to Nevsky by Golubev.
“I’m very pleased that Belarus has preserved astronomy on its national syllabus, since this subject is fertile ground for applying the talents of young people,” Mr. Golubev stresses. He helped write the first national school textbook on astronomy. “Some become good theorists while others make something with their own hands. Moreover, when youngsters are involved in searching for the laws which govern our place in the universe, it ‘awakens’ their hearts and souls. They become considerate adults. Nevsky combines the qualities of a strong theorist with golden hands and a curious heart. He is an amateur astronomer of top level and can outrival many professionals! Due to such enthusiasts as Nevsky, Belarus is considered to be a successful astronomical state in the world.”
With his passion for astronomy, Golubev rejoices at his pupils’ own successes. Various educational establishments worldwide take an interest. For example, a project by Irina Litvyakova appealed to the jury of the International Together to Mars Contest and she was offered a place at a US college. Yelena Sheveleva, who was studying astronomy under the guidance of our hero, graduated from Moscow University and now teaches physics there.
In 1991, Mr. Golubev was awarded the Yuri Gagarin Medal from Russian cosmonaut Alexander Serebrov for cultivating a love for astronomy and space among young people. Moreover, recently, he was awarded an Award of the President of Belarus for brilliant teaching. Mr. Golubev is sure that, if talented and enthusiastic young people appear, then they’ll be able to show them how to find comets and supernovas. This is considered to be the greatest achievement in astronomy!
It’s likely that more Belarusian stars will be discovered. Mr. Nevsky has found five more new asteroids and is going to name one ‘Vitebsk’ — to honour his native city.
By Sergey Golesnik
‘Golubev’ in Virgo constellation
[b]Vitebsk’s amateur astronomer discovers asteroid and names it after his teacher[/b]In the early 1990s, an amateur astronomer from Vitebsk, Vitaly Nevsky, built his own observatory 20km from the regional centre. In late April 2009, the enthusiast, crazy about his hobby, was the first in the country to discover an unknown asteroid in the constellation of Virgo. At first, the International Minor Plant Centre (USA) assigned the asteroid a number — 216897; Vitaly then decided to name the new celestial body in honour of his teacher, Vladimir Golubev. The formalities are now settled and the asteroid has officially acquired its name of ‘Golubev’.