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Minor Planet Named After Major Campus Star

Posted November 3, 1999

Mechanical engineering professor and former chancellor Chang-Lin Tien now has a permanent place in the firmament -- Chinese astronomers have named an asteroid after him.

Asteroid #3643 has been formally named Tienchanglin by the Minor Planet Commission and the Small Bodies Names Committee of the International Astronomical Union. It joins a select few asteroids named for Berkeley notables, such as the late chemist Glenn Seaborg. There are nearly 7,000 named asteroids honoring scientists, historical figures and fictional or mythological characters ranging from Carl Sagan to Michelangelo and the state of California.

The asteroid was discovered by the Zi Jin (Purple Gold) Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Oct. 29, 1978, and subsequently given the provisional designation 3643. A permanent name typically is not assigned until an asteroid's orbit has been well determined so that the position can be reliably predicted far into the future -- in most cases after the minor planet has been observed through two or more orbits of the sun. The discoverer of the asteroid is then invited to suggest a name.

The observatory chose to honor Tien because of his status as a "world-renowned educator and thermophysicist and his outstanding achievements in heat transfer, energy engineering, environmental science and many other high technology fields." In a telegram sent to Tien last month, observatory scientists also lauded his "great contributions to high technology development in Hong Kong and the scientific and economic exchanges among mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (which) are widely recognized."

"I am very honored by this recognition," Tien said. "It should be shared with my engineering colleagues and with faculty, staff and students, who have given me so much help in my work at Berkeley and beyond."

Asteroids are small rocky bodies circling the sun in planet-like orbits, hence the name minor planets. They are thought to be unchanged since the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

As officials of the observatory signed their telegram to Tien, "May Tien Chang-Lin Asteroid (3643) shine forever in the universe!"



November 3 - 9, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 13)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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