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July 17, 2008

Media Contacts:

Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
240-228-7536 or 443-778-7536

Asteroid Named for Johns Hopkins

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The name that graces some of the world's top research, educational and medical institutions has a new place in space.

The International Astronomical Union approved the name "21619 Johnshopkins" for the asteroid once known as 1999 JN136, honoring the 19th century Maryland entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded the Johns Hopkins University and hospital. Scientists announced the designation this week at the international Asteroids, Comets and Meteors meeting in Baltimore, being hosted by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

"This is a terrific honor, recognizing the many contributions that Johns Hopkins University men and women have made to humanity's knowledge of the world, the solar system, and the universe. We really appreciate it," says Johns Hopkins University President William R. Brody. "In our first 14 decades, we've grown far beyond Baltimore to include campuses around the world. We've designed, built and operated satellites in outer space. But an asteroid brings a whole new meaning to our far-flung mission!"

Asteroid Johnshopkins is about 2 to 4 miles wide and orbits the sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It's currently more than 290 million miles from Earth, and you'd need a powerful telescope to even glimpse it.

The asteroid joins a collection of natural objects — at home and in the heavens — named for Hopkins institutions and people. Johns Hopkins Glacier is in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska, near Johns Hopkins Inlet. An asteroid is named for APL and a constellation of seven asteroids bears the names of Applied Physics Lab researchers who worked on the historic Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), the first mission to orbit and land on an asteroid.

Ted Bowell, whose team at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., discovered asteroid JN136 in May 1999, proposed the new moniker. To track the asteroid through space, visit:

The IAU citation reads:

(21619) Johnshopkins = 1999 JN136
    Discovered 1999 May 9 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search at the Anderson Mesa Station. Johns Hopkins (1795-1873) was a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist of Baltimore, Maryland. He is best known for his creation, under the terms of his will, of The Johns Hopkins University and its affiliated institutions, including the Applied Physics Laboratory.

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit