Humphreys receives extraterrestrial tribute from former student

Many alumni pay tribute to their favorite professors, but Jeffrey

Larsen is honoring his former advisor and mentor, Professor Roberta

Humphreys, in a way that is out of this world. Larsen, a principal

research specialist with the Spacewatch program at the University

of Arizona in Tucson, discovered Asteroid 10172 in March 1995, when

he was an astrophysics graduate student at the University. The asteroid,

three to eight miles in diameter, orbits the sun in the asteroid

belt between Mars and Jupiter, about 260 million miles from the


Larsen was entitled to choose a name for his discovery, but the

Small Bodies Naming Committee—an international group charged

with naming asteroids and similar astronomical bodies—required

that he choose a worthy eponym.

There was no question who fit the bill, says Larsen. "The first

name I chose had to be Roberta's. She was a fantastic advisor and

helped me through a lot."

Humphreys, a member of IT's astronomy faculty, taught him many

of the skills he brought to his career in Tucson, Larsen adds. "She

taught me things you don't pick up from a textbook, which is about

80 percent of what a research astronomer has to do."

After the committee approved the name in November, Larsen surprised

Humphreys with the news. "I had no idea he was planning this," says

Humphreys, who notes with pride that only one other University faculty

member has a celestial namesake. "It's a real honor."

For further information, see Humphrey's Web site

or Spacewatchs' Web site.