Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Asteroid named for University of Utah makes public debut

24.09.2014

Orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, 'Univofutah' is no threat to Earth

What's rocky, about a mile wide, orbits between Mars and Jupiter and poses no threat to Earth?


At the request of longtime Utah astronomy educator Patrick Wiggins, shown here, the International Astronomical Union this month named an asteroid that Wiggins discovered in 2008 as 'Univofutah' to honor the University of Utah.

Credit: Bill Dunford.

An asteroid named "Univofutah" after the University of Utah.

Discovered on Sept. 8, 2008, by longtime Utah astronomy educator Patrick Wiggins, the asteroid also known as 391795 (2008 RV77) this month was renamed Univofutah by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"It's neat," Wiggins says. "There aren't too many other universities on the whole planet with asteroids named after them. So that puts the U in rather rarified company."

"We are very honored," says Carleton Detar, the university's chairman of physics and astronomy. "Patrick Wiggins has been a dedicated champion of Utah amateur astronomy. Next, we'll need student volunteers to install a large block U on our asteroid."

Wiggins, who now works as a part-time public education assistant in the university's Department of Physics and Astronomy, had submitted the naming request in July as "Univ of Utah" but the naming agency changed it to Univofutah – much to the dismay of university marketing officials, who would have preferred "U of Utah." Wiggins says names must be limited to 16 characters, ruling out the university's full name.

The asteroid "is no more than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) across," Wiggins says. Because of its small size and distance, it is "too far away for even the Hubble Space Telescope to determine the shape."

"Thankfully, this one will not be coming anywhere near the Earth," he adds. "It's a loooong way out. It is in the main asteroid belt. It stays between the orbits or Mars and Jupiter."

As a NASA solar system ambassador to Utah since 2002, Wiggins this year won NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal, the space agency's highest civilian honor.

More than 655,500 Asteroids Now in the Main Belt

Thousands of asteroids are discovered each year, with the total now exceeding 655,500. More than 52,000 have been found so far this year and more than 5,000 so far this month, according to the Minor Planet Center. Near-Earth asteroids, which have orbits that can bring them near Earth, are much less common, with more than 40 discovered so far this year, 897 so far this month and 11,473 found in total.

Wiggins discovered Univofutah using a 35-centimeter (18.8-inch) optical telescope at his home observatory in Toole, Utah.

On the night it was discovered, asteroid Univofutah was about 137 million miles from Earth, almost 1.5 times the distance between the Earth and sun.

Univofutah is the fourth of five asteroids discovered by Wiggins. He also has spotted a number of previously known asteroids, and also thought he discovered a near-Earth asteroid – the kind that can threaten Earth – but it wasn't seen again. This year, he discovered his first supernova, or exploding star.

The other asteroids Wiggins discovered (the first one with his then wife) are Elko and Timerskine in 1999, Laurelanmaurer in 2007 and Nevaruth in 2008. Elko was named for his hometown in Nevada. Timerskine was named by his former wife for her second husband. Laurelanmaurer was named for a friend of a person who won the naming rights during a fundraising auction, and Nevaruth for the grandmother of Wiggins' former wife.

Asteroid Univofutah initially was numbered 391795 because it was the 391,795th minor planet – the term that astronomers use for asteroids – to be discovered and receive a number.

The rest of its original name – 2008 RV77 – is a code for the year and time of year it was discovered, with "R" meaning the first half of September and V meaning it was the 21st asteroid discovered during that half-month.

It took until earlier this year before the asteroid even qualified to be given a formal name. That is because "after the initial discovery, it has to be tracked long enough to where its orbit is well known and the International Astronomical Union is certain it's not a previously discovered minor planet," Wiggins says. "In the case of this one, that took until several months ago."

Wiggins worked from 1975 to 2002 for at Salt Lake City's Hansen Planetarium before it closed and Clark Planetarium was built. He also has been with the Salt Lake Astronomical Society since 1975, and has worked part time at the U since the 1990s. He teaches physics and astronomy in museums, schools and public events.

###

University of Utah Communications
75 Fort Douglas Boulevard, Salt Lake City, UT 84113
801-581-6773 fax: 801-585-3350

Lee J. Siegel | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>