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Asteroids named after 2 ASU faculty members

PHOENIX — Two Arizona State University faculty members have received an out-of-this-world honor.

Phil Christensen and Dave Williams, both faculty members in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, now have asteroids named after them.

Asteroid (10461), now called “Dawilliams” was discovered on Dec. 6, 1978, and is found in the main asteroid belt bet located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Asteroid (90388) on the other hand, named “Philchristensen” is also located in the main belt and was discovered on Nov. 24, 2003.

“I was very surprised to receive this honor from the astronomical community. Only a select few of the Dawn at Vesta participating scientists, who did exemplary work during the mission, were so honored,” said Williams in a release.

Only a select few are chosen to have a celestial body named after them.

The naming process is presided over by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an organization or professional astronomers.

After being discovered, an asteroid is given a provisional designation by the Minor Planet Center of the IAU, which includes the year of discovery, two letters and if needed, further digits.

Once its orbit is known and predicted, the asteroid receives a permanent number and becomes eligible for naming.

All proposed names must be approved by the IAU’s Committee on Small Body Nomenclature.

Not only professors or scientists get the honor of being named after an asteroid. Some discoverers have named the objects after celebrities, such as James Bond and The Beatles.

Neither of these asteroids poses a risk of collision with Earth.