AMHERST, Mass. - Joseph Goldstein, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, has had an asteroid named after him. "I was absolutely surprised," said Goldstein. "It''s a nice honor because I study meteorites, which are parts of asteroids that have broken off and fallen to Earth."
The asteroid''s proper name is "Joegoldstein." The honor is due to the efforts of Tim McCoy, curator of the U.S. National Meteorite Collection at the Smithsonian; S. J. "Bobby" Bus, who discovered the asteroid; and others. The dean is in good company: asteroids have also been named after Beethoven, all four Beatles, Anne Frank, Jerry Garcia, and Jackie Robinson. (As a side note, the name "Goldstein" was already taken.)
Goldstein, an engineer who specializes in metallography, has studied meteorites since his graduate-school days, with much of his research supported by NASA. Specifically, he studies the pure metals found in meteorites. These metals can tell researchers a great deal about how the meteorite cooled over long periods of time.
The asteroid was discovered in 1981 by Bus at Siding Spring in Australia during the U.K. Schmidt-Caltech Asteroid Survey, and is one of the more than 700 minor planets that Bus has discovered in his career. The citation notes Goldstein''s work at UMass on metallographic techniques and experimentally determined phase relationships. Goldstein''s work, McCoy wrote, "is vital to understanding the formation and structure of iron meteorites."
The Planetary Sciences Division, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, gives a lively "how-to" on naming an asteroid: "The discoverer of a particular object has the privilege of suggesting a name to a committee (part of the International Astronomical Union) that judges its suitability. Contrary to some recent media reports, it is not possible to buy a minor planet. If you have a name you would like to apply, the best advice is ''Go out and discover one!''" According to guidelines, an asteroid''s name should be one word, non-offensive, and less than 17 characters.
NOTE: Dean Joseph I. Goldstein can be contacted at 413/545-0300 or email@example.com.