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Astronomy Class Names Asteroid ‘Testudo’

By Karen Shih ’09

Whether gleaming on his overlook at the top of McKeldin Mall or sneaking up to tap your shoulder at a football game, Testudo seems to be everywhere. Now, he’s reached his pinnacle—up in the night sky.

Meet the “Testudo” asteroid, named by University of Maryland students in ASTR315, “Astronomy in Practice” and confirmed by the International Astronomical Union on Monday. Located in the main belt of asteroids that orbit between Mars and Jupiter, it is shaped “kind of like a bumpy egg,” and is about 4 kilometers across, said astronomy Principal Lecturer Melissa Hayes-Gehrke.

Designed for non-astronomy majors, the course uses telescopes to observe the rotation periods of asteroids that haven’t had their rotations measured before.

“Usually the discoverer gets to name it, but this one had been discovered in 1985 and hadn’t been named yet,” presenting an unusual opportunity, said Hayes-Gehrke, who teaches the class each spring. “The students were excited to do it.”

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