Asteroid named in honor of Michele Dufault (1988-2011)

July 26, 2011

Asteroid (15338) Dufault = 1994 AZ4 is official, published in the 2011 July 15 batch of Minor Planet Circulars.  It appears as follows on MPC 75548:

(15338) Dufault = 1994 AZ4

      Discovered 1994 Jan. 5 by Spacewatch at Kitt Peak.

      Named in honor of Michele Dufault (1988-2011), an outstanding astronomy and physics student at Yale College who died in an accident just weeks before graduation.  Michele was passionate about science and about encouraging others, especially young women, to pursue science careers.  Citation by M. Urry.

The asteroid is a 5 to 10 kilometer diameter object in orbit 2.92 AU from the Sun on average but gets as close at 2.55 AU and as far as 3.29 AU from the Sun (1.0 AU is 150,000,000 kilometers approximately, the average distance of Earth from the sun) - pretty much in the middle of the asteroid belt between Mars (at 1.52 AU) and Jupiter (at 5.20 AU) and has a very low inclination to the ecliptic, about 2.94 degrees.  It is different from the object I originally picked out for her since I tried to name an Amor type asteroid for her but the Small Bodies Names Committee has just recently started re-enforcing the old naming rules that require Mythological names for the Amors despite many recently named Amors being done for “mere mortals”.

Click here for article in Yale Daily Bulletin