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NASA names asteroid after Iranian scientist

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian scientist Firouz Naderi

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has named an asteroid in the solar system after Firouz Naderi, an Iranian scientist and the former director for Solar System Exploration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

“Tonight at NASA/JPL farewell party I learned that they have named an asteroid after me!! I was overwhelmed,” Naderi wrote in a post on his Facebook account on Monday, adding that “asteroid formerly known as (5515) 1989 EL1 will henceforth be known as asteroid ‘Naderi’.”

The asteroid was discovered by late American astronomer Eleanor F. Helin at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County California on March 5, 1989, and is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) in diameter. It rotates about itself every 5.2 hours and orbits the Sun every 4.4 years.

The asteroid Naderi is among numerous other minor celestial bodies orbiting the Sun roughly between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. This crowd of asteroids is called the main asteroid belt, the total mass of which is almost four percent of the Moon, or 22 percent of Pluto.

“The navigators at NASA/JPL produced this framed picture for me. The orbits and the planets positions are exact as of today 3/28/2016. Position of asteroid ‘Naderi’ in its orbit is also exact as of today,” Firouz Naderi wrote about the above diagram on his Facebook account.

“Fortunately, it is not an Earth crosser,” Naderi further said, adding that a curious fact about the asteroid is that “its orbit is a little more eccentric than most asteroids in the main belt.”

During the last 36 years, Naderi managed or oversaw numerous projects in NASA, including JPL's robotic solar system mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, Cassini orbiter at Saturn, and the Dawn spacecraft at the giant asteroid Vesta.

“It will be going around the Sun for billions of years after I am gone,” Naderi further said about the asteroid.

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