Asteroid Named for EAPS Postdoctoral Associate Alissa M. Earle

Lauren Hinkel | EAPS News
Friday, October 26, 2018

The International Astronomical Union recently honored MIT EAPS postdoc Alissa M. Earle for her work on NASA's New Horizons Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt with the renaming of asteroid 153301 as “Alissamearle.” The formal citation published by the International Astronomical Union in Minor Planet Circular 111801 reads: “Named in honor of Alissa M. Earle (b. 1991), who completed her PhD research on Pluto’s long-term seasonal cycles at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while serving as a composition analysis team member for the New Horizons Mission to Pluto.”

She joins a distinguished line of MIT scientists and engineers after whom celestial bodies are named, including (6635) Maria Zuber, (33402) Claude R. Canizares, (9729) Sara Seager, (32222) Charles Vest, (2873) Richard Binzel, (120351) Becky Masterson, and (134178) Mark Chodas, among many others. The Institute has its own asteroid as well: (4523) MIT.

Earle's work, "Methane distribution on Pluto as mapped by the New Horizons Ralph/MVIC instrument" by Earle et al., also appeared on November 2018 cover of Icarus (the premier International Journal of Planetary Science) and shows the distribution of methane ice across the surface of Pluto.  

“It's a rare honor for such an early career researcher to be recognized by the international community,” says Richard Binzel, EAPS Professor of Planetary Sciences and Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow. “Alissa has played in key role in mapping the composition of ices across Pluto's surface and understanding their seasonal changes.”

Story Image: Alissa Earle (Photo: Richard Binzel)