Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 12:12 UK

Asteroid 6137 newly renamed John

John Fletcher in the Tuffley Observatory
Asteroid John is currently in the southern hemisphere

An amateur Gloucestershire astronomer has had an asteroid named after him after Sir Patrick Moore nominated him for the honour.

John Fletcher, 60, regularly sends off data collected using the observatory in his back garden in Tuffley, Gloucester.

"Patrick and I are good friends and he said I should have an asteroid named after me, but I didn't think any more about it," said Mr Fletcher.

"I heard a couple of days ago that asteroid 6137 is now called 'John'."

Sir Patrick nominated Mr Fletcher in recognition of his work.

"He is very, very good," said Sir Patrick.

"He does so much observation work which is used by Nasa almost every working day.

Hazardous asteroids

"The photograph he took of my asteroid is on my study wall. His is an ordinary asteroid in the main belt, about 15 miles across."

Mr Fletcher's love of astronomy was fired with the 1969 manned moon landing.

"I was bought a pair of binoculars for Christmas and suddenly I could see up to 40,000 stars," he said.

"I started small, learning the sky and the main constellations, then I moved on to the telescopes."

In 1986, with the help of his cousin, Mr Fletcher built the Tuffley Observatory in his Gloucester back garden.

His recent work focuses on measuring the positions and brightness of near-Earth asteroids and potentially hazardous asteroids.

The data is sent to Harvard's Smithsonian Institute.

Asteroids are not named after the person who finds them. They are given a number until the International Astronomical Union grants them a name.

"I'm so proud... I'm only an amateur astronomer, it really feels wonderful," said Mr Fletcher.

Asteroid John is currently in the southern hemisphere so Mr Fletcher will have to wait a few months until he gets the opportunity to photograph it for his own study wall.




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