HomeNews & MediaPress ReleasesPress Release 
3 August 1999
For Immediate Release

Constellation of Asteroids Named for Johns Hopkins APL Researchers

With the naming of seven asteroids for researchers at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md., the International Astronomical Union has created a constellation of asteroids bearing APL-associated names.

At its International Asteroids, Comets, and Meteors conference at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., on July 28, the IAU named asteroids for: Stamatios M. (Tom) Krimigis, head of APL's Space Department; and Andrew F. Cheng, Robert E. Gold, Gene A. Heyler, Noam R. Izenberg, Scott L. Murchie, and Jeffery W. Warren. They were among the 60 individuals and institutions receiving the honor. All of the APL researchers are key contributors to the Laboratory's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) program, the first of NASA's Discovery missions, which is sending a spacecraft to rendezvous with 433 Eros on Feb. 14, 2000, to conduct the first in-depth study of an asteroid.

Asteroid 8323, which was discovered in 1979 by E. Bowell at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., will now carry the name 8323 Krimigis in honor of Krimigis, a specialist in solar, interplanetary, and magnetospheric physics. Krimigis has been principal investigator or coinvestigator on several space experiments, including the Low Energy Charged Particle experiments on Voyagers 1 and 2 and the Active Magnetospheric Particle Tracer Explorers. He spearheaded the establishment of NASA's Discovery Program. Krimigis is a resident of Silver Spring, Md.

At the Lowell Observatory in 1982, Bowell also discovered asteroid 8257, which has now been named 8257 Andycheng to honor Andrew Cheng, a planetary scientist who serves as project scientist on the NEAR mission. Cheng has made significant contributions to a wide variety of solar system topics, including the study of magnetospheres and investigations of minor-planet surfaces and geodesy using lidar (laser-radar) techniques. He is a resident of Potomac, Md.

Asteroid 4955, which was discovered in 1990 by H.E. Holt at Palomar Observatory in Pasadena, Calif., will now be known as 4955 Gold, in honor of Robert Gold, who has made many contributions to space science through numerous spacecraft missions, including Ulysses, Geotail, Delta Star, and ACE. Gold is currently the payload manager for the NEAR mission and played a key role in ensuring that the six science instruments on NEAR were delivered and integrated on time and under cost. Gold is a resident of Columbia, Md.

Asteroid 5446 will now be known as 5446 Heyler in recognition of Gene Heyler, a spacecraft attitude control expert from Columbia, Md., who has been responsible for developing innovative techniques for tracking minor planets during fast flybys. These techniques played a major role in the success of the NEAR flyby of asteroid 253 Mathilde in June 1997. Asteroid 5446 Heyler was discovered in 1991 by Holt at the Palomar Observatory.

Asteroid 5584 has now been named 5584 Izenberg, in recognition of Noam Izenberg of Columbia, Md., a planetary scientist and an expert in the geologic interpretation of reflectance spectra. Izenberg played a major role during the NEAR mission to asteroid 433 Eros through accurate calibration of the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and through a careful analysis of the data returned. Asteroid 5584 Izenberg was discovered in 1989 by Holt at the Palomar Observatory.

In 1990 Holt also discovered asteroid 4642, which is now named 4642 Murchie to honor Scott Murchie for his outstanding work in the area of planetary problems ranging from icy satellites, Martian rocks and moons, to the age dating of terrestrial rocks. Murchie is currently the instrument scientist for the NEAR multispectral imager. He is a resident of Mt. Airy, Md. Jeffery Warren of Ellicott City, Md., has had asteroid 5597 named 5597 Warren in recognition of his work designing, fabricating, and operating a major instrument on the NEAR spacecraft--the Near-Infrared Spectrometer (NIS). The NIS investigation represents the first-ever mapping of the surface of a minor planet from orbit. Asteroid 5597 Warren was discovered in 1991 by Holt at the Palomar Observatory. Asteroids have long been a fascination for the public as well as the scientific community. They are small bodies without atmospheres that orbit the sun but are too small to be classified as planets. Dubbed "minor planets," tens of thousands of asteroids are known to congregate in the main asteroid belt: a vast, doughnut-shaped ring located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter from approximately 186 to 370 million miles from the sun.

Asteroids are thought to be primordial material that was prevented by Jupiter's strong gravity from accreting into a planet-sized body when the solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago. The estimated total mass of all asteroids would make a body about 930 miles in diameter -- less than half the size of the moon.

The International Astronomical Union, which announced the latest list of asteroid names, is the sole internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and surface features on such bodies.

The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is a not-for-profit laboratory and independent division of The Johns Hopkins University. APL conducts research and development primarily for national security and for nondefense projects of national and global significance. APL is located midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in Laurel, Md.



For more information, contact:

JHU Applied Physics Laboratory
Helen Worth
Laurel, MD 20723-6099
Phone: 240-228-5113