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Space Education Science

High School Sophomores Discover Asteroid 126

Posted by kdawson
from the october-sky dept.
Several readers sent us the story of three high school sophomores in Racine, Wisconsin who were just notified that a celestial body they had discovered during a science project has been verified as an asteroid. The students at Racine's Prairie School will be given the opportunity to name the asteroid in about four years. They used a telescope in New Mexico, belonging to a college in Michigan, that they controlled over the Net.
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High School Sophomores Discover Asteroid

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  • Uhoh (Score:5, Funny)

    by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @05:35AM (#22064548)
    Let's hope its not called Wolf-Biederman
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kamineko (851857)
      Curse your fast typing! :D
    • Re:Uhoh (Score:4, Funny)

      by Goffee71 (628501) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:07AM (#22064690) Homepage
      I'm guessing it'll be called Asteroid '[INSERT SCHOOL BULLY'S NAME HERE] is a dickwad' -
      that would be sweet revenge for all science class geeks.
    • by Nazlfrag (1035012)
      I'm voting for Jack Schitt!
    • Re:Uhoh (Score:5, Funny)

      by gsslay (807818) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @07:41AM (#22065174)
      Nope.

      It's going to be called omfg!noob!lol!111 Just so everyone knows how awesome and kewl it is.
    • Re:Uhoh (Score:5, Funny)

      by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.SeanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @08:00AM (#22065310) Homepage
      This reminds me. I work part time at a grocery store, where I've seen a set of stuffed animals whom allow you to name stars. When you buy it, you get a code to go to some international astronomy society (I can't remember its name off the top of my head) where you get to give a name to a star somewhere out there.

      Now, this is kinda cute, and something I'm sure little kids might enjoy, and it's not like we are running out of stars. But someday, I can't help but picture a fateful day when we try to explain to our once-peaceful alien neighbors why the citizens of Earth have chosen to name the sun that their planet revolves around "Mr. Snugglekins III."

      Thus beginning an inter-galactic war that will leave trillions dead.

      My point is, having anyone other than scientists naming celestial bodies is a potential recipe for disaster. God forbid these kids decide to name it "Dick Face" and the asteroid decides it would rather be a meteorite...
      • Re:Uhoh (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gospodin (547743) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @08:35AM (#22065608)

        It might make you feel better to know that those star naming deals are scams. They are not creating official names. What they tell you (in very careful language) is that the name you choose will go in the [insert important-sounding catalog name]. But that catalog is really just one they keep. Scientists don't use it.

        Also, according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], when these high-schoolers name the asteroid, the IAU gets to vet the name. If it's "Johnsmithisajerk", they'll probably say no.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by boris111 (837756)
          You mean that star my ex bought me meant nothing!
        • by Gilmoure (18428)
          Ferris would be a cool name.
        • by Kamokazi (1080091)
          Yeah they're scams, but the few of us here or have (or had) girlfriends know that the average girl doesn't know that, and for $40 bucks you're off the hook for another anniversary and you get laid. (It's cooler than a stupid teddy-bear and looks better sitting around the house).
          • So basically what you are saying is that women are stupid, but not stupid enough to go out with Slashdot readers.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by DiscipleN2k (914143)
            Worked great for my first anniversary. Seriously, how may great gifts can you get for the "paper" anniversary? For like $25, I was hero! Our 5th anniversary was even easier. I didn't even have to buy anything for "wood" ;)
        • by AdamTrace (255409)
          I hope so... :(

          --John Smith
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jank1887 (815982)
        FYI: Toy name: Shining Stars website: www.shiningstars.com some international astronomy society: International Star Registry yup, the same guys that have been letting people buy star names for the past decade or so for about $50. The new $15 stuffed toy is a bargain. It even gives you a cheap Webkinz knockoff website to play on. Took my 6 year old less than a half hour to get thoroughly disgusted with it and request playing Webkinz next time. The toy itself is half decent though.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I know one thing: those guys are going to get a lot more sex!
    • College in Michigan? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ejdmoo (193585) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:28AM (#22067716)
      Try Calvin College [calvin.edu]...yeesh. Just because Taco went to Hope [hope.edu] (bitter rivals)...grumble grumble...

      Pictures of the telescope [calvin.edu].
    • by mseidl (828824) *
      SELECT * FROM new_overlords
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Korin43 (881732)
      Did anyone else see the headline and think "What took them for long, I've been playing Asteroid for years.."?
  • Why wait 4 years? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loibisch (964797) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @05:53AM (#22064624)
    Can anyone please explain to me please why they can name "their" asteroid in about 4 years? I mean, it's cool to wait a little to make sure everything is alright and this wasn't just speck dust on the lens...but 4 years seems a long time to peer-verify something like this and give them permission to name it.

    Also: I suppose those guys must ace all those two-picture "spot the 10 differences" tests after this...
    • by RuBLed (995686) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:02AM (#22064670)
      Hmmm.. maybe it got something to do with the estimated 5yr orbit of the asteroid. One has to be sure that it is a unique one and not another one that strayed from its recorded orbit. (by collision with another asteroid)
      • by Anonymous Coward

        One has to be sure that it is a unique one and not another one that strayed from its recorded orbit. (by collision with another asteroid)

        I am not familiar with the system of naming, but how do they refer to the asteroid now? Whether or not it is unique seems irrelevant, since they still have to call it something. Presumably it's something like 'Asteroid ABCXYZ-31415' or something like that. So why can't they give it the name they want, and if it turns out not be unique, they just say "Asteroid Principl

        • by kundziad (1198601)
          I would guess that if it's not unique, it already has a name and all the waiting is just to clear it up... Not to make any mess with double-naming.
      • by slackoon (997078)
        It would not take 4 years to do that though. Based on relative positions over a few months (lets say even a year due to difficulty acquiring telescope time) they can extrapolate the orbit. 4 years is quite excessive. I say it's well worth the wait though!!
      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Hmmm.. maybe it got something to do with the estimated 5yr orbit of the asteroid.

        The rule is, IIRC, that the object has to have had an orbit determined which is good enough to be "useful in the establishment of identifications" (from [umd.edu] http://www.ss.astro.umd.edu/IAU/csbn/mpnames.shtml [umd.edu] ). That would normally be a minimum of 2 apparitions ; potentially as little as one year. However, for an "interesting" object you can establish a preliminary orbit from a few nights of observation

    • Obviously (Score:5, Funny)

      by Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:04AM (#22064684) Journal
      Because they're in high school. If you let them to name the comet now, you'll only get suggestions such as "The Big ASSteroid" or "Your Junk" (I can just hear it now - "Your Junk is soo small, you need a telescope to find it"). I'm sure they're just giving them enough time to mature.
      • yes, because certainly calling it "The Big ASSteroid" would totally discredit science as we know it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        If you let them to name the comet now, you'll only get suggestions such as "The Big ASSteroid"

        I vote for Mister Vacuumy Pants!

      • by Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @07:07AM (#22064988)
        No kidding. People have been laughing at Uranus for years. It's no wonder that astronomers worldwide don't want to repeat that mistake.
        • No kidding. People have been laughing at Uranus for years

          Maybe they've been laughing at yours but not at... oh, skip it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ibwolf (126465)

          People have been laughing at Uranus for years. It's no wonder that astronomers worldwide don't want to repeat that mistake.
          Indeed, I move that we immediately rectify the situation and rename that planet Urectum!
        • by Adambomb (118938)
          Nahh, i'm pretty sure its not so much of a double entendre to the greeks.
        • That's why I support renaming Uranus to Urectum. (preferably before the year 2620)
      • I agree, they're a possibility they would name it "your mom", leading to exchanges in the observatories like... "your mom's mass is so great she's going to destroy the earth!"
      • by Tailsfan (1200615)
        LOL. You make any teenage boy laugh.
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        "Your Junk is soo small, you need a telescope to find it"

        "Asteroid Yurdick" would work a lot better with this one.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Names of which to be wary:

        * S.C.Johnson, Horlick's, Case or other local manufacturer
        * Arthur's Diner (fictional)
        * names of models of AMC automobiles (Rambler, American, Classic, Ambassador, Matador, Javelin, Hornet, Gremlin, etc.) Oh ,wait, that's KENOSHA up the coast.
        * Anything Danish.
        * Max Hardcore

      • They said in 4 years they'd let the highschool name it. That means nobody who's currently at the school will be there when it's time to name it.

        Suckers!
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Actually if my understanding of the future [imdb.com] is correct, these sort of naming conventions will one day be the norm for astronomers (or "Star-Looking Smarty Fags" as they will be known then).
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Scroatzilla (672804)
        In four years they will have matured enough to inject subtlety: Asteroid 3MTA3.
    • by rpillala (583965) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:20AM (#22064746)

      It's because of the powerful asteroid naming lobby. Or the writer's strike.

    • by segedunum (883035)
      That's after it hits us.
    • Agreed. It should be like particle physics: awards should be given to those who DON'T discover a new particle :)
    • by ryeinn (844805)
      If I recall my Astronomy they have to know the trajectory of the orbit very precisely before naming the rock.
  • Say I'm looking through a telescope at a bunch of bright orbs in the sky. How do I report one dot to the authorities to see if it's known yet or not?
  • too bad... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Elminst (53259) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:00AM (#22064664) Homepage
    will be given the opportunity to name the asteroid in about four years.
    Unfortunately, this will be 5 months after it collides with the earth.
  • by ThreeGigs (239452) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:12AM (#22064708)
    Bob Holmes' website:
    http://ari.home.mchsi.com/index.htm/ [mchsi.com]

    List of asteroids discovered this school year:
    http://ari.home.mchsi.com/mp_discoveries_table_2007.htm/ [mchsi.com]

    And some info on the telescope he uses to capture images:
    http://bi-staff.beckman.uiuc.edu/~melockwo/telescopes/holmes32/holmes32.html/ [uiuc.edu]

    Same deal as this article. He uploads pics for students at participating schools to work with.
    • by CarAnalogy (1191053) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @07:23AM (#22065062)
      404 "Object not found!"

      Does that mean he didn't find any yet?
      • by ThreeGigs (239452)
        Whoops! Color me an idiot for those bad links, and thankee for reposting correct ones. I don't know why but I do this every time, although I usually catch it in a preview. I think it's because in the example on the posting screen, there's a slash before the closing sign, which makes sense in a 'close your damned tags' sort of way to me.
        • Huh? I didn't repost correct links, even though I probably should have. Or is that sarcasm there?
    • by DeeQ (1194763)
      I love the fact this was modded to 5 for informative when NONE OF THE LINKS WORK.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jugalator (259273)
        Remove the last slash on all the links.

        Yes, it was sloppy, but we all know that file extensions don't end with a slash, right..? :-)
        • by jc42 (318812)
          we all know that file extensions don't end with a slash, right..?

          True, but directory pathnames do, and there's no reason that a directory's name can't contain a dot. I've seen a few sites that do this to categorize their files. Thus, for package foo, they might have a directory foo.html/ that contains the package's web pages, foo.jpeg/ that contains the package's images, and foo.pdf/ that contains the package's PDF files. Try it with your web server; you'll probably find that it works fine.

          It's yet anoth
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ThreeGigs (239452)
        Actually, seeing +5 even though I screwed up the slashcode format has bolstered my faith in the moderation system, as people moderating are obviously intelligent enough to realize my mistake, and corrected for it. Smart people are moderating, and that's good. Now I know why I rarely get mod points :-)
    • Bob Holmes' website:
      http://ari.home.mchsi.com/index.htm [mchsi.com]

      List of asteroids discovered this school year:
      http://ari.home.mchsi.com/mp_discoveries_table_2007.htm [mchsi.com]

      And some info on the telescope he uses to capture images:
      http://bi-staff.beckman.uiuc.edu/~melockwo/telescopes/holmes32/holmes32.html [uiuc.edu]
  • Dottie (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by bradjs (1067118)
    Nah- they'll name it Dottie 'cause she's a vicious lifesucking bitch from which there is no escape
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:28AM (#22064774)
    Yesterday we get "What Was Your First Gaming Experience" and today it's "High School Sophomores Discover Asteroids". So what? Who hasn't played Asteroids? [wikipedia.org]
  • I liked the shield feature in Asteroids Deluxe better than the hyperspace feature in the original, though.
  • by Martian_Kyo (1161137) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @07:21AM (#22065052)

    The students also located other potential objects that may be asteroids, and are currently conducting follow-up research.

    this leaves with the impression this guys just got lucky. It's like they identified each faint dot as an asteroid, and one just turned out to be exactly that. I imagine they just pointed at each dot

    Students:Is this an asteroid?
    someone knowledgeable:No
    Students:Is this an asteroid?
    someone knowledgeable:No
    Students:Is this an asteroid?
    someone knowledgeable:No..wait Yes
    Students: Ha we are smart!

    However I do give the students credit for initiative, it's refreshing to see that some kids still have interest in science (other then computing)
    • by Marcosll (1158487)
      You call searching for asteroids with a telescope science? Singles Benalmadena [boxfiesta.com]
      • science -The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, theoretical explanation, and experimentation, or the knowledge produced by such investigation.
        so...yes.
    • They found it by controlling the telescope over the net so they were probably looking for something cool to be doing in their computer class and so I'd say their interest was more in computers than science.
    • by eh2o (471262)
      Current estimates put the total number of asteroids between 1-2 million (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid), only about 300k of which are cataloged. About 5000 more are discovered each month, nearly all of which are found by entirely automated systems.

      So, if you can find *any* asteroid at all with a telescope, chances are better than 70% that it is a new discovery. And, finding one probably isn't all that hard with a modern telescope... just point it at the Kupier Belt and take a few pictures.

      So, I w
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        And, finding one probably isn't all that hard with a modern telescope... just point it at the Kupier Belt and take a few pictures.

        Considered how most objects in the Kuiper belt are smaller and as far away as Pluto, you might want to try with a pair of binoculars instead ;-)

  • A HAWKING HOLE!
  • simpsons (Score:2, Funny)

    by comm2k (961394)
    Skinner:"Noooooooooooooooooo."
  • by UID30 (176734)
    Chuck Norris. 'nuff said.
  • Worse yet, the kid may want to name it some text-message garble like "ZOMGDIDUCMEP" or somesuch. Or, worse yet, the kid's a gamer and names it "noob" or "qq pvp server," or EVEN worse...

    ROTFLCOPTER.
  • Wisconsin, eh? Then it went something like this:
    Tommy: "Ohhhhh...Looky 'dere, Billy! There's somethun' up in sky o'ver 'dere!"
    Billy: "Ohhhh...that's one of them 'dere asteroids, don't ya know!"

    • Eh now. I used to live a mile from Racine (in Kenosha). Over der, we put "eh" at the beginning of our sentences. Either way, I'm sure the asteroid will either be named after Miller, Harley, cheese, snow, or some German name. Not much else exciting in Wisconsin.
      • by jav1231 (539129)
        My wife's family is from / still lives up there. I love it up there. But as a life-long Southerner, it's still a hoot listening to them. I'm sure they think the same about the South.
  • Now we know (Score:2, Funny)

    by maroberts (15852)
    Sophomores use their telescopes for watching asteriods.
    I use my telescope for watching sophomores.....
    (/perv)
  • If science fiction has taught me anything, there are fields of these asteroid things all over the place. They make for great cinematography and space battles. Let me know when they find something other than a big rock or ball of gas.
  • The students will have to decide on naming the asteroid one of two things:

    • Giant Douche
    • Turd Sandwich
  • I wonder which one is Cosmos?
  • Let's hope this one doesn't head for the Earth [imdb.com].
  • Could I suggest "Doombringer" for this asteroid?
  • School officials expel students for illegal asteroid use after reading their blog.
  • It'll burn up in atmosphere and whatever's left will be no bigger than a Chihuahua's head.
    • by celle (906675)
      "It'll burn up in atmosphere and whatever's left will be no bigger than a Chihuahua's head."

      That will turn out to the most efficient power source available and we destroy ourselves fighting over it.

      Why should nature destroy us when our own greed will do a better job.

  • ... that happens when some kid gets a telescope for Christmas. He doesn't tighten down the azimuth axis while he's looking in the bedroom window of the girl next door and the next thing you know, the damned thing ends up pointing toward the sky.
  • by loafula (1080631)
    Wow, flip through the comments and the overwhelming majority poke fun at the situation. Sounds to me like a bunch of angry nerds who are a little jealous they never did anything this cool in HS. Give the kids a break. They are kids, ya know, and I think discovering an asteroid is a pretty cool accomplishment for a kid, regardless of what kind of help they recieved.
  • Astronomy is one of the areas where amateurs can make a significant contribution. I listened to a radio program about this the other day. Ah, here we are:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/citizenscience.shtml [bbc.co.uk] (N.B. May not work in the USA?)

    "Some of these enthusiasts get a thrill out of seeing sky sights with their own eyes, while others patiently scan the heavens to discover things that no human has seen before.

    David Tate monitors the skies from a small fibreglass dome which he built himself in his back

Our policy is, when in doubt, do the right thing. -- Roy L. Ash, ex-president, Litton Industries

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