Truman Kohman Latest AAAP Member to Earn Asteroid Name Honor

Minor Planet 4177, Discovered in 1987

From the July, 2000 Guide Star

Truman Kohman "Congratulations", "Bravo", "Kudos" and all other possible variations therein and thereof to Dr. Truman Kohman for the high honor of having his name assigned to an asteroid. specically Minor Planet 4177 (a.k.a. 1987 SSI ). The announcement was made in Minor Planet Circular 40700 on May 23. Until now, we Truman's name has figured prominently in soliciting the naming of asteroids for famed Pittsburgh area astronomers such as Dr. Nicholas Wagman and the late Leo Scanlon. Thanks to a similar effort put forth his friends and colleagues Dr. Bruce Hapke and William Cassidy (University of Pittsburgh), yet another Main Belt asteroid bears an AAAP member's name.

Truman deserves this honor as much for his achievements outside the field of astronomy, as well as within. He has served as one of this area's, and perhaps the nation's, leading scientists and educators for over half a century. Truman was among the select few scientists to work on the Manhattan Project in Chicago (Argon National Lab) and taught chemistry at Carnegie Tech/Mellon from 1948 to 1981. In 1954, Truman played a key role in the discovery of Aluminum 26, a nuclide (not isotope) that has figured prominently in the analysis of meteorites and other solar system matter. He is also an acknowledged expert on the subject of gamma ray sources and their distribution, and has proposed a novel design ("Coded Aperture") for an orbiting gamma ray telescope.

He caught the astronomy bug when he was only 13 and folded his love of the stars into his teaching duties at CMU, giving classes in introductory astronomy from 1970 to 1990. In appreciation of his of services in this regard, CMU students renamed the school's observatory for Truman in 1986. Plans are afoot to install the 12-1/2" Newtonian (that once served at Wagman Observatory) in Kohman Observatory, which is located on the roof of Scaife Hall.

Truman has been a crucially important supporter of the Wagman Observatory project from its earliest days. He arranged for the loan of the 12-1/2" scope to the original observatory, and also played the pivotal role in the donation of the surviving Brashear 11 Inch refractor components to the AAAP in 1986.

Truman has given many interesting lectures to the club for several decades, some of which covered his globe-trotting solar eclipse expeditions to Java, Brazil and Hawaii. Interestingly, his most recent talk at Border's Books covered asteroids! Appropriately, Truman is current Chair of the special interest group on asteroids and comets, but he could easily be chair of any other of the SlGs.

We hope Truman has many more lectures and other contributions in store. In the mean time, we can all take pride in his latest achievement. Certainly, very few if any other astronomy clubs can claim so many members w ith their names assigned to asteroids.

When Truman's colleagues decided to give his name to an asteroid, they did not simply throw, the proverbial dart at the star chart and pick the nearest object. Minor Planet 4177 Kohman is located on the outer fringes of the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter, and completes one solar orbit in a little over 6 years. (For a sense of its distance, consider that Mar's period is about two years and Jupiter's is about 12 years.) These more distant asteroids are thought to include the highest percentage of "carbonaceous condrites", objects with an abundance of complex carbon-based light-element matter. Thus, Truman's name was assigned to an object "close to his heart" in a scientific sense. Here's the wording of the Minor Planet Circular: (4177) Kohman = 1987 SSI

Discovered 1987 Sept. 21 by E. Bowell at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Ohservarory. Truman Paul Kohman (b. 1916), emeritus professor nuclear chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, is co-discoverer of 26Al, a nuclide that has given important information about meteorites and the early history of the solar system. He is also an ardent amateur astronomer and teacher.

The name was proposed by Bruce Hapke and William Cassidy.

(Editor's note: The exact text has been modified here to show "nuclide" rather than the'`isotope" of the original draft.)

Another article from CMU.