Madisonville Students Name Recently Discovered Asteroid For School

By: Shane McAuliffe Email
By: Shane McAuliffe Email

Physics and astronomy teacher Denise Rothrock loves looking to the skies.

Rothrock and her students have been participating in a program called the International Astronomical Search Collaboration and back in 2008, they discovered something never seen before. A previously unknown asteroid.

"I think back then they were young enough to know they were doing something but not wise enough to realize what it actually was," said Rothrock.

Now those students who discovered the asteroid are seniors and after years of waiting for their discovery to be verified and officially named, it's finally happened.

"You would sit down and look at the pictures and look for a small dot that would move. After a while it becomes very tedious," said senior Liberty Schmidt.

Schmidt was part of the team that named asteroid 269323 2008 SE209 to the easier said, Madisonvillehigh. Yes, all one word.

"I walk into Wal-Mart and everybody is like, congratulations on your asteroid," joked Schmidt.

The chunk of rock in space was officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union in Paris, France. It requires names of asteroids be 16 characters long without any spaces. Turns out Madisonvillehigh fit perfectly but this might not be the only asteroid these students get to name.

"We've actually discovered seven asteroids with this program but only one has come up for naming," said Rothrock.

But do we have to worry about the Madisonvillehigh asteroid escaping the asteroid belt and becoming more like the the town paper's namesake? A Madisonville Meteor?

"Anywhere between 1 kilometer to 3 kilometers in size, so it's a fairly large asteroid. But it doesn't have any plans of hitting the earth so we're good there," said Rothrock.

Liberty is the valedictorian of this years senior class and plans on attending UT-Arlington where she plans on majoring in mechanical engineering and get a masters in aerospace engineering.


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