Auburn University faculty member warranted an asteroid naming due to his contributions to field of planetary science.
Masatoshi Hirabayashi, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, was honored with the asteroid naming at the “Asteroids, Comets, Meteors 2017” conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, earlier this year.
Hirabayashi’s asteroid, 11471 Toshihirabayashi, was discovered on March 6, 1981, at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia by astronomer Schelte Bus.
When an asteroid is discovered, it is given a temporary name and then a catalog number when its orbit is more accurately determined. The International Astronomical Union’s committee on small body nomenclature is in charge of selecting asteroid names based on contributions to planetary science.
“Having an asteroid name is a rare and tremendous honor for scientists and engineers,” Hirabayashi said. “I am humbled that the committee placed such great value on my work, and I aim to continue producing influential research results in this area.”
Hirabayashi’s work focuses on astronautics and geophysical modeling for small planetary bodies and planetary surface processes, specifically the dynamics and structure of these small bodies. Hirabayashi believed his study on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which was published in Nature, was a large factor in the selection of his asteroid name.
Hirabayashi’s Space Technology Application Research, or STAR, lab is collaborating with NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on missions that involve asteroids and other small bodies including the DART mission and the Hayabusa 2 mission.
“In space missions, a better understanding of natural phenomena in space will help us develop innovative technologies and solve challenging problems,” Hirabayashi said. “I would like to conduct interdisciplinary research for critical space missions, such as asteroid mining and deflection.”
Hirabayashi joined the Auburn Engineering faculty in August after spending two years as a postdoctoral associate at Purdue University. He received his doctorate in aerospace engineering sciences from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Hirabayashi plans to join one of his astronomer colleagues and travel to Israel in February 2018 to observe his asteroid.