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On Asteroid Day, how to get your name out there

June 28, 2018

29 ASU faculty and staff have asteroids named after them. How did they do it? Well, there are rules, a lot of them ...

As Asteroid Day approaches on Saturday, don’t look up in fear — a dinosaur-killer only hits Earth once every 100 million years — but around in wonder. Arizona State University’s involvement in four NASA missions to asteroids might make it Asteroid U, but having 29 asteroids named after faculty and staff members positively nails it.

Asteroid Day is held each year on June 30 to mark (certainly not celebrate) the date of the largest asteroid impact in recorded history: the Tunguska event in 1908, which flattened more than 770 square miles of Siberian forest.

Almost all of those ASU-monikered rocks come from the School of Earth and Space Exploration — no surprise there — with one exception: Donald Johanson, the paleoanthropologist who discovered the hominid “Lucy” in Ethiopia in 1974.

It’s not a terribly exclusive club. The Minor Planet Center has data on almost 745,000 objects in the inner and outer solar system, of which almost 504,000 have enough information to be given numbered designations. Donald Duck, James Bond, Bilbo Baggins and the cast of Monty Python all have their own asteroids. The majority of names come from science, but there are also the names of royals, teachers, explorers, novelists, composers, TV and movie stars, contest winners, and Olympic medalists. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot buy one.

So how do you get an asteroid named after you? The short answer is go out and discover one.

The long answer is that it’s complicated and can take decades. The whole process is overseen by the Minor Planet Center (asteroids are minor planets). Hosted by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the center is part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

NASA image of Vesta asteroid

Sorry, this asteroid's taken. You'll have to go discover one of your own if you want to name it after yourself. (This is the Vesta asteroid, which has a set of three craters known as the "snowman.") Photo by NASA

First, the object is spotted and then verified that it has never been seen before. It immediately gets complicated. Multiple observations have to be made at various times, all of them verified. “When there are observations at four or more oppositions, the object may receive a permanent designation, a number,” reads the Minor Planet Center’s webpage on the subject. “(The actual circumstances under which objects are numbered are rather complex and subject to occasional revision, but four well-observed oppositions will usually suffice.)”

Eventually the process spits out an official discoverer. The discoverer gets to name the asteroid. They have 10 years to give it a name. Of course there are rules — lots of them — about what type of names are acceptable.

After a name is chosen and the discoverer writes a short citation explaining why he or she chose it, the discoverer submits a form to the Minor Planets Center.

Then the name is judged by the 15 professional astronomers on the Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union.

Can you go wild? No, you cannot. Names should be 16 characters or less. They like single-word names. It has to be pronounceable (“in some language,” archly states the rules). It can’t be offensive (a tall order these days). And it can’t be too similar to anything else floating around out there.

“OK. How about — ” No. Stop right there. The Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union isn’t done yet. There are more rules. Many more.

People or events primarily known for military or political activities are acceptable only if the person has been dead or the event elapsed 100 years ago. Relatives are acceptable. Pets are not; no one wants space to be mucked up with objects named Fluffy or Mr. Whiskers. Commercial names are forbidden. We may have to put up with that nonsense on sports stadiums, but not, thank God and the Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union, in the majestic void of the universe. 

The firmament is not solely peopled with angels. Somehow James Gordon Bennett Jr. has an asteroid named after him. The insanely wealthy publisher of the New York Herald was famous for sending Henry Morton Stanley to Africa to find David Livingstone. He was also notorious for racing his carriage around Manhattan naked in the middle of the night, dueling, yacht racing and urinating when drunk in the fireplace of his fiancee’s family during a New Year’s Day party. The latter incident occasioned the end of the engagement and Bennett decamping to Europe.

The rules become more stringent if the asteroid falls into a specific orbital class. Objects in the trans-Neptunian object belt must be named after creation deities. Certain orbits require the names of underworld deities, centaurs or names associated with the Trojan War (in a fair fashion, of course: “Objects at the preceding L4 point are named for Greeks, objects at the trailing L5 point are named for Trojans,” the rules state.)

Finally, after much muttering and stroking of beards, the name is accepted. It becomes official when it’s published in the monthly Minor Planet Circulars issued by the Minor Planet Center. Your Mom will be thrilled and people in bars bored.

Asteroids named for people at ASU

  • Saadat Anwar, Asteroid (130089) Saadatanwar
  • Jim Bell, Asteroid (8146) Jimbell
  • Heather Bowles, Asteroid (130090) Heatherbowles
  • Robert Burnham, Asteroid (4153) Roburnham
  • Phil Christensen, Asteroid (90388) Philchristensen
  • Ernest Cisneros, Asteroid (4643) Cisneros
  • Jemma Davidson, Asteroid (117595) Jemmadavidson
  • Steven Desch, Asteroid (9926) Desch
  • Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Asteroid (8252) Elkins-Tanton
  • Zoltan Farkas, Asteroid (130127) Zoltanfarkas
  • Tara Fisher, Asteroid (130128) Tarafisher
  • Ronald Greeley, Asteroid (30785) Greeley
  • Donald Johanson (52246) Donaldjohanson
  • Ian Kubik, Asteroid (130161) Iankubik
  • Igor Lazbin, Asteroid (130229) Igorlazbin
  • Greg Mehall, Asteroid (70716) Mehall
  • Mark Miner, Asteroid (130249) Markminer
  • Carleton Moore, Asteroid (5046) Carletonmoore
  • William O'Donnell, Asteroid (130314) Williamodonnell
  • Daniel Pelham, Asteroid (130319) Danielpelham
  • Maher Rassas, Asteroid (130320) Maherrassas
  • Mark Robinson, Asteroid (7778) Markrobinson
  • Alyssa Rhoden, Asteroid (16788) Alyssarose
  • Devin Schrader, Asteroid (117581) Devinschrader
  • Lisa Schulze, Asteroid (133068) Lisaschulze
  • Sumner Starrfield, Asteroid (19208) Starrfield
  • Meenakshi Wadhwa, Asteroid (8356) Wadhwa
  • David Williams, Asteroid (10461) Dawilliams
  • Robert Woodward (133743) Robertwoodward

Top photo: Artist rendition of the asteroid Psyche. Image by Peter Rubin/ASU

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Passion for caring leads group of ASU nursing students to Guatemala

June 28, 2018

Doctor of Nursing Practice students design their own residency experience abroad

Seeking a global health perspective, a group of seven nurses enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University designed their own clinical residency and language-immersion experience in Guatemala.

“I had been researching doing an immersion for several years and been in contact with Jardín de América, a total-immersion Spanish school, and it just seemed like the timing was right to be able to do this during school, before I get into my career and don’t really have the time off to do an immersion,” DNP graduate Tanya Carroccio said.

Earning credit for the trip

When they learned about the opportunity, six of her classmates wanted to participate. That’s when Carraccio brought the idea to DNP faculty at the college.

Specifically, she wanted to know if this global health experience and medical volunteer work could be applied toward some of their program’s clinical residency requirements.

The DNP program director and faculty were impressed with the research, thought and effort the students put into making this idea a reality, but there were some practical bridges to cross in order for the group to receive credit for the trip.

“The students were required to outline their objectives for the experience and how it met curriculum and professional goals,” said Diane Nuñez, DNP clinical associate professor.

Once she received the outline from the students, Nuñez said it was clear that the trip would definitely meet the core content requirements of the program.

“These students have, in a sense, designed their own learning immersion through direct engagement with a select population," Nuñez said

With that, the faculty and associate dean approved clinical residency credit for the trip.

With a green light from the college and their individual preceptors, they began tackling the logistics of the trip, which would take them to the remote city of Panajachel, Guatemala, for two weeks in early March.

Thanks to the flexibility of the faculty, they were able to complete assignments ahead of time, allowing them to focus on their clinical work and immersion classes while abroad.

Tanya Carroccio, Carol Simpson and Richelle Miller describe their experience in Guatemala. 

Day-to-day in the clinics

Once on the ground in Guatemala they almost immediately got to work. The seven students split up into three groups in order to volunteer at different clinics.

“Basically from 8 a.m. to noon for two weeks that’s what we did: work in the clinics. The patients were all Spanish-speaking, and they were very grateful to have us there,” said Miller, a DNP graduate and trip participant.

Miller worked at a special-needs clinic seeing patients who have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other neurological disabilities.

Another group worked at a public clinic providing vaccinations, diabetes management and other services one might expect to find at a primary-care or urgent-care clinic. The final group volunteered at an orthopedic facility.

“These students have … designed their own learning immersion through direct engagement with a select population." 

— Clinical Associate Professor Diane Nuñez

Because they were working in a high-poverty, rural community, the clinics were at times lacking in supplies. In some cases, basic medical necessities like antibiotics, gloves and even gauze were unavailable.

“Most of the stuff was donations,” Carroccio said. “It gave us a true appreciation for what we have that others may not.”

In fact, the group was so moved by the needs at these facilities they decided to donate as well, buying medical supplies with their own money in order to help out.

Treating patients in the clinical setting was just the first part of their day. After a break to have lunch with their host families, they continued with four hours of Spanish class.

Spanish immersion

The level of Spanish-speaking and comprehension skills the DNP students had before this experience varied. Some had basic abilities, and others were a bit more advanced. 

“It was just amazing, and I feel like I overcame some barriers and I plan to continue learning,” said Simpson, a beginner-level Spanish speaker. Simpson said their starting skill level didn’t matter because the instructors were really good at adapting to each individual’s proficiency and working with them from there. 

The language immersion aspect was a key motivator for everyone on this trip.

Because Spanish is a major language in the Southwest, knowing at least some medical terms can make a huge difference when it comes to understanding and communicating with patients they care for here at home.

“When they’re in a dire situation, they’re going to revert to their native language so it’s very, very helpful,” Simpson said.

Taking in the sights

Volunteering in clinics and improving their Spanish skills was absolutely the focus of the trip, but the group was able to take some time to explore and enjoy the rich Guatemalan culture.

Panajachel is on the north shore of Lake Atitlán and is about 75 miles west of Guatemala City, the country’s capital.  

The nurses visited Antigua and one of the nearby volcanoes, months ahead of the deadly eruptions that devastated the area in June.

All of them were in awe of the history and breathtaking beauty surrounding them throughout their time in and around Panajachel.

Trip has lasting impact

Each of the women came away from this two-week clinical and immersion program changed and inspired to incorporate the experiences and understanding they gained as a result into their own practice.

“You get to see people as they live, and there’s a lot of value in that, in terms of how you understand them, how you treat them,” Simpson said. “Showing respect for their ideas of what good medical care is and incorporating that into your practices so they feel like they’ve been listened to, respected and receive good care.”

“We fell in love with the people. … The clinic staff, patients, our host families, our instructors at Jardín de América — even the people in the streets, the vendors, we know them by name,” Miller said.

The students encourage future DNP students to think outside the box when it comes to clinical hours and take advantage of the flexibility within the program to pursue a global experience.

For those who don’t want to start from scratch by creating an experience from the ground up, you can always follow in this group’s footsteps with a trip to Guatemala, Carrocio said.

“It takes a little bit of research, but fortunately we have a great foundation because we’ve already been to the school, we know the host family, so we say, just go for it!”

Top photo: Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of marcoreyes/Pixabay

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist , Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation