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Science educator celebrates his asteroid

Dennis Schatz
Dennis Schatz is senior adviser at the Pacific Science Center. (Dennis Schatz via Amazon.com)

The Pacific Science Center’s senior adviser, Dennis Schatz, has achieved a kind of fame that so far has eluded the likes of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates: getting his name on an asteroid.

Asteroid Schatz joins more than 20,000 other “minor planets” that have been named after people, places and things. That represents only a small percentage of the more than 734,000 such objects that have been cataloged by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

It’s generally up to an asteroid’s discoverer to propose a name for approval by the IAU, in accordance with a set of naming rules. (For example, no dictators need apply.) On occasion, the Minor Planet Center takes requests.

In Schatz’s case, it was Larry Wasserman, a planetary scientist at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, who suggested the name. Asteroid 25232, previously known as 1998 TN33, was discovered in 1998 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search, or LONEOS.

Wasserman cited Schatz’s status as an astronomer and educator who was vice president of the Pacific Science Center, president and workshop leader for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the author of 23 children’s books on science, and co-developer of educational programs such as Project ASTRO and Portal to the Public.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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