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Humble B.C. amateur astronomer now officially out of this world

Jaskarn Singh ‘Sid’ Sidhu has an asteroid named after him, honouring his volunteer astronomy efforts

Longtime amateur astronomer Jaskarn Singh “Sid” Sidhu now shares his name with an asteroid, after his nomination by fellow astronomers was approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Sidhu, who has his own telescope set up at his Greater Victoria area home, has been a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Victoria centre since 1985 and currently runs its school and telescope loaner programs.

Despite his prolonged involvement, news that the IAU had approved attaching his name to a previously numbered celestial body came as a surprise. Sidhu was sitting in his mini-observatory at home when Victoria branch president Randy Enkin emailed him word of the decision.

“I said, ‘He’s pulling my legs.’ There’s no way. I didn’t believe him,” Sidhu told Black Press Media.

Astronomical societies across the globe were asked to nominate worthy candidates by the IAU.

Asteroid 10109, now named Sidhu, orbits the Sun outside the orbit of Mars and was discovered in 1992 by astronomers at the Mount Palomar Observatory in California.

In ideal conditions, the asteroid is 12 magnitude and is visible with the aid of a telescope. Currently, the magnitude is closer to 17 magnitude – less visible in the night sky – and beyond the capabilities of Sidhu’s home telescopes.

“I’m trying to convince my wife to let me buy a bigger telescope.”

Sidhu became interested in astronomy in 1983 after a friend showed him their telescope during a summer camping trip at Parksville’s Rathtrevor Provincial Park. Since then he’s been an active member in the Victoria society, especially its outreach and education programs. His outreach work during the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 saw him awarded the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada President’s Award.

He was nominated for the IAU small bodies nomenclature in 2018 by then-president Chris Purse, according to the RASC Victoria branch’s Astronomy Cafe.

He helps fix up donated telescopes and gifts them to aspiring astronomers and is a big part of the society’s school program – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic he would visit 70 classes per year, Enkin said. The society has been doing some lessons virtually, including a weekly lecture for society members, but Sidhu is crossing his fingers he’ll be able to visit classes again in September.

“The main idea was that if we could take one student, one child off the street, the whole process was worth it,” he said.

The Victoria branch of the society, running since 1914, is always looking for new members, from experts to those with zero knowledge, Sidhu said.

“It’ll make you forget your problem with your wife and the husband and neighbours, etc. It’s like a meditation … For older people, I say, it’s a great hobby. For younger people, it’s a great opportunity for the future of their life.”

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