The Malala Fund announced the naming of the asteroid on Wednesday, following the decision by Dr. Amy Mainzer, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, to name Asteroid 316201 after Malala. Any astronomer that discovers an asteroid has the right to name it, subject to approval from the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Asteroid honors contribution of Malala
The asteroid, now known as 316201 Malala (2010 ML48), is located in the Main Belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. It takes 5-and-a-half years to make one orbit of the Sun.
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“From the heat emitted, we can also determine the size and reflectivity of the asteroid,” wrote Dr. Mainzer. “It is about 4 kilometers in diameter, and its surface is very dark, the color of printer toner.”
Malala Yousafzai was the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014, along with Kailash Satyarthi. She is both the youngest ever winner and the first Pakistani citizen to win the award.
“Very few (asteroids) have been named to honor the contributions of women (and particularly women of color),” wrote Meinzer. “It is a great honor to be able to name an asteroid after Malala.”
Education for all
Malala began campaigning for education for girls in Pakistan at the tender age of 11, maintaining a blog about her life in the Swat Valley in the north of the country. In 2012 she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, and barely survived.
Despite their best efforts to end her campaign, the Taliban only succeeded in bringing it to a far wider audience. Malala’s work to bring education to girls has now grown beyond her blog and is known all around the world.
Mainzer took the opportunity to express her support for Malala’s campaign, and issued an encouraging call to girls around the world: “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.”