Asteroid Named For Heroic Pakistani Female Teen Activist

Teen activist has recently discovered asteroid named after her.

Teen activist has recently discovered asteroid named after her.

 

A recently discovered asteroid has been named for 17-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai.

Malala started writing a blog for the BBC in 2009 in which she protested the Taliban’s tactics of attacking schools for girls. She used a pseudonym for her writing but her identity was eventually discovered. While riding home from school October 9, 2012, a man jumped into her school bus and shot her in the head. After medical treatment  in her native Pakistan and in England she recovered, and despite continued threats from the Taliban she is determined to finish her education and to fight for the rights of all girls to be educated. She has spoken at the United Nations  about the right to education and currently heads a charity that supports education for girls throughout the world.

In 2011, Malala won Pakistan’s National Youth Prize. She was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, the youngest person to ever do so. For three consecutive years she was included in Time Magazine’s group of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.  Malala is also included in Life Magazine’s 2015 edition of 100 Women Who Changed the World.

Asteroid 306201 was discovered June 23, 2010. The asteroid is about 2.5 miles in diameter and has a dark surface which has been described as resembling the color of printer toner. It is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and orbits the sun once every 5.5 years.

According to rules established by the International Astronomical Union,  NASA astrophysicist Dr. Amy Mainzer, who discovered the asteroid,  has the right to name it. Dr. Mainzer said  she knew when she discovered the asteroid that she wanted to name it after someone important. A colleague who worked with her pointed out that not many asteroids had been named to honor the contributions of women and few of those women so honored were from ethnic minorities. After reading Malala’s story, Dr. Mainzer and her colleague thought Malala was deserving of the honor of having the asteroid named after her.  The asteroid is now officially known as 316201 Malala.

NASA officials say they hope the decision will be an inspiration to others. Dr. Mainzer said she  hoped the asteroid’s name would be an inspiration to young women and would remind people that science and engineering are for everyone.  “We desperately need the brainpower of all smart people to solve some of humanity’s most difficult problems, and we can’t afford to reject half the population’s (brainpower),” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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