Schoolchildren have named a mountain-sized asteroid Snowdonia after the beautiful Welsh region of the UK that is dominated by giant peak Snowdon.
It was discovered by a telescope on Hawaii that is operated over the Internet by schoolkids to find and track potentially threatening asteroids.
The Faulkes Telescope Project puts schools on the front line of defence against a devastating impact like that which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The asteroid Snowdonia is not a threat as its orbit does not cross Earth’s.
UK children from schoools in Cambridge, Pontypool, Cardiff, Canterbury, London, Glasgow and Leamington Spa helped work out its orbit last spring following its discovery.
Jay Tate, a former Army major who runs the Spaceguard Centre in Mid Wales and campaigns for more to be done to tackle the asteroid threat, praised the children’s “Harry Spotter”-style work. He said: “Students working with the Faulkes Telescope Project produce some of the most important data on asteroids in the UK. Kids love it because they can watch things move, and more importantly because it’s real – a far cry from many sterile classroom activities.”
The schoolchildren had the final say on three name suggestions made by German astronomers Lothar Kurtze and Felix Harmouth who found the asteroid. The name was picked because it acknowledges the location of the Faulkes Operations Centre at Cardiff University, as well as drawing attention to Snowdonia National Park.
The Faulkes project’s education director David Bowdley said: “Helping to study this asteroid and choose a name for it has been a great inspiration for the students. Working alongside real scientists has shown how much more can be achieved when people collaborate. In future we will be running many more projects like this where students work alongside astronomers to achieve real scientific outcomes.”
Photo: A view of Snowdonia in Wales by Paul Sutherland.
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