Amateur astronomer Matt Dawson, pictured in an archive photo, discovered last week that an asteroid had been named after him almost 20 years ago
Photo: Marion Dessard
It happened to Queen musician Brian May, now it is the turn of Luxembourg amateur astronomer Matt Dawson to have an asteroid named after him.
The only difference for the local stargazer is that his honour was awarded almost 20 years ago, yet he only learned of it days ago.
“Nobody told me,” Dawson told Delano on 17 July, adding: “I was browsing the archives of the Minor Planet Center and saw an asteroid called Matt Dawson. I thought that was probably named after the rugby player. Then I had a look and saw it was named after me.”
Dawson still does not know why the asteroid was named after him but he said he is touched nonetheless.
“20 years ago, when I started, I was the only person in Luxembourg who cared about them,” he said in an interview.
Today, in part thanks to Luxembourg’s space mining initiative, interest in near-earth objects has exploded.
“The general interest in asteroids has been generated by economic possibility of exploiting asteroids. That’s always a good thing. Money talks.”
It also helped that Luxembourg hosted Asteriod Day 2017 in June, welcoming experts from around the world to help raise awareness about the need to observe and protect the earth from near earth objects.
To mark the occasion, Dawson named one of the asteroids he discovered in 2006 “Asteroid Day”, as his work has been closely linked to the education awareness-raising that Asteroid Day sets out to generate.
“I’m involved in referencing the orbits of newly discovered asteroids that might impact the earth. You cannot tell if they will impact the earth unless you know precisely where they will be. They use positions to calculate orbits,” he said.
Dawson caught the astronomy bug aged seven when his father first showed him a comet. “Most people grow out of it, but I didn’t!”
In the 50 years he has spent observing near-Earth objects, he has discovered a total of 12 asteroids.
“It’s a very special feeling; you’re looking at new worlds that have been orbiting the sun for 4.5 billion years. And you’re the first person who knows it’s there.”
The astronomer worked as a professional rock musician, ending a European tour in Luxembourg in 1979, at the same time the band broke up. “As always, there was a women involved and I stayed. I’ve spent 33 years saving up for my ticket home," he joked.