Asteroid Named After Texas

The Lone Star State of Texas -- finally -- has its very own namesake "lone star" wandering around the solar system. Actually, it's an asteroid, which has been named after Texas. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell has more.

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Yes there is now an asteroid named Texas out there in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It was discovered in 1997 by two amateur astronomers at the George Observatory in Fort Bend County. Bill Dillon and Randy Pepper are founding members of the George Observatory's Asteroid Team, and Dillon says identifying an asteroid is complicated and slow.

"What we'll do is we'll take several pictures over at least twenty minutes, and maybe more typically over an hour. Anything that has any residual motion will show up as what appears to be a moving star."

That's how they spotted this particular asteroid one night in 1997. Dillon says it's only a mile or two across -- about the diameter of downtown Houston -- but he decided to name it after the whole state.

"I happened to be looking through a list of named asteroids, and I came across an asteroid named Massachusetts, and I thought well surely there has to be one named for Texas, and I was very surprised to find that no asteroid had been named for Texas. So it's about time that we correct that."

That was nine years ago. The International Astronomical Union finally approved the name Texas in June. The George Asteroid Team is getting pretty good at this. Working part-time, they've discovered more than 400 asteroids since the team was formed ten years ago. They've named 21 asteroids and they have ten names pending approval. Dillon says that's not bad for a bunch of amateurs. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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