An asteroid has been named after Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai, the Malala Fund blog announced on Thursday.
“Although many asteroids have been named, very few have been named to honor the contributions of women (and particularly women of color),” Amy Mainzer, astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and principal investigator of the mission that discovered the asteroid, explained. “It is a great honor to be able to name an asteroid after Malala.”
According to the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) rules, the discoverer of an asteroid has the right to name it. The asteroid, 316201 Malala (2010 ML48), lies in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter and orbits the sun every 5.5 years.
“From the heat emitted, we can also determine the size and reflectivity of the asteroid,” the researcher wrote. “It is about 4 kilometers in diameter, and its surface is very dark, the color of printer toner.”
Mainzer also had some advice: “My advice to young girls is 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.”
In October last year, Malala became the youngest ever Nobel Prize winner, jointly winning the prestigious annual prize with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi.