eso9011 — Science Release
Newly Discovered Minor Planet Named “Portugal''
29 September 1990
By decree of the International Astronomical Union, a newly discovered minor planet (asteroid) in the solar system has been given the name Portugal, honouring this European country.
The minor planet was first discovered on photographical plates, obtained with the 1-metre ESO Schmidt Telescope, at ESO's La Silla Observatory in the Chilean Atacama desert. It was detected by an ESO astronomer as a short trail among the point-like images of stars; see the attached photo.
The official dedication, which will appear in the IAU Minor Planet Circulars on October 4, 1990, reads as follows: (3933) Portugal = 1986 EN4
Discovered 1986 March 12 by R.M.West at the European Southern Observatory.
Named in honour of the European country whose famous navigators studied the skies with great skill and discovered many new routes to distant shores under southern stars. Its recent association with ESO now opens new, exciting celestial paths for its modern astronomers.
”Portugal" moves in a nearly circular orbit between the planets Mars and Jupiter at a distance of about 485 million kilometres from the Sun, that is about three times further away than the Earth. Its size is about 10 kilometres and one revolution around the Sun takes 2137 days, or nearly 6 years.
The agreement between Portugal and ESO
On July 10, 1990 in Lisbon, the Republic of Portugal and the European Southern Observatory signed a Cooperation Agreement which is aimed at full membership of Portugal in ESO within the next ten years.
During this period, the Portuguese Government "will allocate an amount equivalent to a percentage of the annual contribution Portugal would have to pay, if it was already a member of ESO, to the development of research in the field of contemporary Astronomy, so as to permit a future efficient usage of ESO's facilities by Portuguese astronomers". This amount will be spent on a number of infrastructures necessary for the development of Astronomy in Portugal and on technological and scientific training actions related to ESO's activities.
In return, Portuguese astronomers will have access to ESO's facilities during the pre-accession period under scientific conditions similar to those of Member Countries. It is expected that the first proposal(s) will soon be received from Portugal, and that some joint programmes with astronomers from ESO member countries will be worked out before the end of the year.
A Joint Portuguese/ESO Advisory Body is being set up to monitor the development of Portuguese astronomy and its interaction with ESO.
Portuguese astronomy is in a phase of rapid and well considered expansion. With access to the ESO telescopes, more young astronomers in this country will be drawn towards observational studies and their possibilities for fruitful interaction with astronomers in other places will increase.
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