Asteroid or Comet or Sponge

Asteroid 10254 Hunsrück and You

Let’s talk asteroids! Take, for example, 10254 Hunsrück. It sounds like an address in an upscale German neighborhood. Turns out, it’s the name of an asteroid. An asteroid! How did asteroids get such cool names? Seriously, if I needed to change my name and drop out of normal society, I would choose 10254 Hunsrück over Trout Fishing in America.

How are asteroids named?

When the International Astronomical Union has confirmed that an asteroid is, indeed, an asteroid, it is given a number by the Minor Planet Center. This is the first part of the asteroid name. The Center then turns back to whomever first identified the asteroid and allows them to pick the second name. The discoverer can choose nearly any surname imaginable for the asteroid.

And boy, do they! Here are a few of my favorite asteroid names from my many, many seconds of research:

  • 57567 Crikey
  • 58671 Diplodocus
  • 41488 Sindbad
  • 5020 Asimov
  • 19367 Pink Floyd

So, yes. It would appear that if you discover an asteroid, you can name it just about anything you want to.

What is 10254 Hunsrück named after?

This particular asteroid is named after a mountain range in Germany. Well, I got the German address right at least. Hunsrück is a rainy stretch of low hills, with notable town names such as  Simmern, Kirchberg, Idar-Oberstein, Kastellaun, and Morbach. Morbach! If my new identity as 10254 Hunsrück requires me to form an industrial goth band, we shall be known as Morbach. You will know us by our crushing amplified kazoo suite “Idar-Oberstein, meine Liebe.”

When was this asteroid found?

Asteroid 10254 Hunsrück was discovered only a few months after my birth, on September 1973 via the Mount Palomar Observatory. It resides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and requires nearly three and a half years to circumnavigate the solar system. That is also how long it took me to graduate from community college. We have so much in common!

Is it a notable or non-notable asteroid?

Though 10254 Hunsrück clearly won the cool asteroid name lottery, it failed to make Wikipedia’s list of notable asteroids. There’s some fierce discussion about what makes an asteroid notable in the talk page of that Wikipedia entry, so check it out. You can see how astronomers spend their free time when not getting laid.

In order to qualify as a notable asteroid, the celestial body in question must be bright, large, or going the wrong way. Seems like 10254 Hunsrück is none of these things, but that’s cool. Don’t try being anything other than you are, little brother.

Did 10254 Hunsrück cause the extinction of the dinosaurs?

No, silly, because it’s still in orbit around the sun. The dinosaur extinction event was caused by the asteroid 1 Uggg.

Will 10254 Hunsrück cause our extinction?

From what I can tell, 10254 Hunsrück is in a stable orbit, and is unlikely to come anywhere near earth. I would keep an eye on 26858 Misterrogers, however. He’s always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. So….

How big is 10254 Hunsrück?

It has an absolute magnitude of 14.5. I can’t repel asteroids of that magnitude! Seriously, though, I have no idea what that means. I found a chart that suggests an absolute magnitude of 14.5 means that 10254 Hunsrück may be 3 to 7 kilometers in diameter. In other words, if the 10254 Hunsrück was on Earth, I could not run around its diameter without throwing up.

Scott, did you find this asteroid through the Random Wikipedia Entry link, because you couldn’t think of anything else to write?

I’m shocked and saddened at the accusation, which is utterly, utterly true.

That’s four minutes of my life I’ll never get back

Well, unless you have a time machine, you weren’t getting that time back anyway, regardless of how it was spent. Thanks for reading, though!

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