What is the history of the asteroid? Asteroid De Young was discovered on 6 January 2006 by Calvin professor Larry Molnar and given the provisional designation 2006 AA4. The discovery images were obtained with the purpose of obtaining measurements of a fourth opposition of the asteroid 2003 RA11 (now asteroid 128177 Griffioen). (See separate web pages on the discovery, first recovery, and naming of asteroid Griffioen, Calvin College's first asteroid discovery.)
Additional observations over the following months allowed the determination of a good preliminary orbit. Using this, the Minor Planet Center was able to identify scattered observations made in 1997, 2002, and 2003 as also being of the same object. (Although the two nights of observations in 1997 were enough to get a provisional designation, 1997 EF31, the earlier data were too sparse to put together as all belonging to the same object.) A new orbit based on the complete data set was computed, and found to be of sufficient quality that the asteroid was ready for a permanent designation without further observations. In May 2006 it received the permanent designation 134244.
The movie loop shows the asteroid as it appeared on January 7, 2006, a sequence of five images, one taken every 20 minutes. It condenses 1.3 hours of motion into 1.0 seconds. The asteroid is the faint point of light just below and to the left of the center of the field of view and which is drifting slowly down and a bit to the right from one frame to the next. (The images are 3.7 by 2.3 arcminutes across; each one was a 300 second unfiltered exposure; north is up, east to the left; the coordinates of the asteroid in the first image are J2000 = (10:46:24.7, +02:50:34.9), which is in the constellation of Sextans, just south of Leo.) At that time the asteroid was just beginning its retrograde motion, so it is moving slowly (0.07 degrees/day) and in an unusual direction (7 degrees west of due south).
The asteroid resides in the midst of the main belt of asteroids (a = 2.72 AU), has a fairly large orbital eccentricity (e = 0.19) and a moderate inclination (i = 7.66 degrees). It takes 4.50 years to orbit the Sun. Its absolute magnitude (H = 16.2) implies a size of about 3 km across. See an animated orbit of asteroid De Young using a NASA web tool. For current position, distance, and brightness go to the Minor Planet Center Ephemeris page, type the name "De Young" in the text box, and click on the "Get ephemerides" button.
Why was the specific name chosen? Once an asteroid has received its permanent numerical designation, it is the privilege of the discoverer to suggest a permanent name to the committee on nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Prof. Molnar, together with the Physics and Astronomy department, chose De Young to honor Mike De Young. Calvin College has established a remotely operated observatory on the campus of the Rehoboth Christian School, just east of Gallup, New Mexico. Mr. De Young, a teacher at that school, was enormously helpful in the planning and construction phases, and continues to be of immeasurable help dealing with the issues that come up from time to time operating such a facility. The formal citation as published by the IAU is as follows:
"Mike De Young (b. 1954) has taught at the Rehoboth Christian School since 1977. He was selected in 1995 by the National Association of Geology Teachers as one of the nation's 24 outstanding earth science teachers. He runs the school observatory and is the local liaison for the Calvin-Rehoboth Robotic Observatory."
The photograph shows Mike De Young in his natural habitat, exploring a cave in New Mexico.
[Text by L. Molnar, posted 4/11/07.]