4 February 2019

People in the Astronomical Society of Victoria will have heard of the Leon Mow Dark Sky Site (the LMDSS). You may have been there. But I was surprised at how little I know about Leon Mow.

Leon Mow AO had a keen interest in astronomy. As part of his extensive philanthropic activities, he donated the facility to the ASV in 1990. Since then, the site has been upgraded, with a kitchen, bathroom, a club room, a dome with a telescope for use by qualified members, and most recently a number of very comfortable sleeping quarters.

All these are freely available to ASV members. I use them often, and apart from walking past the plaque, I normally didn't give Mr Mow a second thought.

The Leon Mow Radio Observatory is in the same location, and is fast becoming an impressive sight, with a number of aerials and (soon) a large parabolic dish antenna on a large tower.

What I didn't know about Mr Mow was that his philanthropic activities extended well beyond astronomy. He funded hostels and soup kitchens for needy people in Australia and Israel, and provided additional support for collection of food for these kitchens. He also supported medical research, was a primary supporter of the International Diabetes Institute, and supported a range of Indigenous causes.

As another way of honouring Mr Mow, the President of the ASV, Perry Vlahos, suggested that an asteroid be named after him. In due course the request was accepted by the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature. So now asteroid (78221) 2002 OP7 has been renamed Leonmow 2002 OP7.

Not only does this asteroid favour observers in the Southern Hemisphere, it should also be visible to users of the new 40-inch instrument, which is appropriately housed at the Leon Mow Dark Sky Site. Here are three photos which were all taken within an hour, showing the asteroid moving against the background stars.

Images from Crux vol.36 no.6, Dec 2018-Jan 2019, p.3. Copyright © 2018 Astronomical Society of Victoria Inc. All rights reserved.