Asteroid (22275) Barentsen

Posted on Tue 22 July 2014 in astronomy

I've had the pleasure to learn that a small piece of the solar system is now named after me: asteroid 22275 has been formally named "Barentsen" by the International Astronomical Union. The announcement was published recently in Minor Planet Circular 88763, which named several dozen asteroids after scientists who have contributed to the field. This is the little paragraph they wrote about me:

Minor Planet Circular 88763.

Asteroid Barentsen travels around the Sun every 3.7 years. It is located in the inner asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is unlikely to hit the Earth any time soon, which is fortunate because the object has a diameter of roughly 5 to 10 km: similar in size to the asteroid which is thought to have killed the dinosaurs.

The physical parameters of the object can be found on this page at the Minor Planet Center. I used the information to create the animation below, which visualises the trajectory of the asteroid through our solar system:

The asteroid is reasonably bright: ranging between 16th and 19th magnitude. Various sky surveys have imaged the object since its discovery in 1982. My favourite set of images were taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey on 12 May 2005, at a time when the asteroid happened to pass just next to a pretty spiral galaxy:

Asteroid (22275) in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Asteroid (22275) Barentsen as observed on 12 May 2005. The animation consists of two images taken 150 seconds apart. The asteroid is the bright moving dot located near the centre.

The object is likely to be an S-type asteroid, which means that it consists mostly of iron- and magnesium-silicates. The lightcurve of the object reveals that it takes 40 hours to spin around its axis, so the inhabitants get to sleep 20 hours a night (albeit depending on the orientation of the axis). That sounds like a great place to live, I can't wait to move! :-)