A Rock With His Name On It

18499 showalter

By Seth Shostak, Director of SETI research

Mark Showalter, an Institute astronomer whose discoveries include faint rings around Jupiter and Uranus as well as six moons orbiting the outer planets, has finally acquired a solar system object that’s named after him.  The International Astronomical Union just announced the christening of an asteroid as 18499 Showalter.  The asteroid was discovered in 1996 using a 1.2 meter telescope as part of the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project (NEAT) that was active from 2000 to 2007.  The telescope is ten thousand feet up Mt. Haleakala, on the island of Maui in Hawaii.
 
While he has no immediate plans to visit his new namesake, Showalter is proud of the honor.  “I'm particularly pleased that my name is attached to an asteroid on an unusual orbit--a Mars grazer,” he says. “Some time in the distant future, it could plow into Mars and put my name up in lights one last time.”