By Nirmani Guneratne
A new asteroid discovered by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has been named in honour of the University of Colombo. The new asteroid is named ‘Colombounilanka’ by the IAU adhering to given guidelines.
Dr. Nalin Samarasinghe, an alumnus of the University of Colombo and fellow astronomer Dr. Todd Lawyer first discovered the asteroid in Arizona 21 years ago at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Recently after its orbit was well established, the asteroid was assigned the number 607372 and the discoverers were officially granted credit for the discovery.
This is the first time that a scientist of Sri Lankan-origin has received the discovery credit to name an asteroid. Only a few universities globally have asteroids named after them and now the University of Colombo joins that exclusive league.
Colombounilanka is a 1-2 km size asteroid in the mid region of the asteroid belt in our Solar System. As such, it is not in a collision course with earth and always more than 1.4 astronomical units (i.e. more than 210 million km) away from earth. Colombounilanka takes 4.2 years to make a full journey around the sun in a slightly elliptical orbit.