Two female pioneers honoured with minor-planet names

The latest batch of International Astronomical Union (IAU) minor-planet names was released on 2023 Mar 20. The list includes two English female amateur astronomers: Alice Grace Cook (1877–1958) and Mary Adela Blagg (1858–1944). Cook lived in Stowmarket, Suffolk while Blagg lived in Cheadle, Staffordshire. Both can be viewed as pioneers of female emancipation.

The object 2000 EY156 is now known as ‘(50739) Gracecook’. The citation reads: ‘After joining the British Astronomical Association, she observed the 1914 Mercury transit from her own observatory, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916. Known for meteor and auroral observations, she received the E. C. Pickering Fellowship
in 1920.’

The object 2000 EO177 is now called ‘(50753) Maryblagg’. The citation reads: ‘After joining the British Astronomical Association, she helped develop a uniform system of lunar nomenclature and was later elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. She joined the Lunar Commission of the IAU in 1920, standardizing lunar nomenclature in Named Lunar Formations.’

Both minor planets are within the main asteroid belt. Gracecook has an orbital semi-major axis of 2.56au and is 4.75km (2.95 miles) in diameter, whereas Maryblagg orbits a little further out at 2.7au, and is slightly smaller at 3.49km (2.2 miles) in diameter. Both orbits are inclined to the ecliptic in excess of 10°.


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