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.