Chinese scientists honor Chang-Lin Tien, beloved scholar and former chancellor at UC Berkeley, with named asteroid

By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- Chang-Lin Tien, a mechanical engineering professor and former chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, is a star on campus. Now, he also 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 mythological characters ranging from Carl Sagan to Michelangelo.

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.

Officials at the observatory said they chose to honor Tien, who served as UC Berkeley chancellor from 1990 until 1997, 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," said Tien, who has consulted on projects ranging from the Space Shuttle to the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering at the age of 41. "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.

The observatory's telegram to Tien ended with this wish: "May Tien Chang-Lin Asteroid (3643) shine forever in the universe!"



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