CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The asteroids zinging around our solar system have
largely been named for their discoverers, or for famous people like Ella
Fitzgerald, Vincent Van Gogh and the Beatles. Tonight, 40 middle-school
science students and their teachers can claim the honor as well, thanks
to MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

This week, 40 finalists are competing in Washington, D.C., for the title
of “America’s Top Young Scientist of the Year” in the third annual
Discovery Young Scientist Challenge (DYSC), a national middle school
science contest. Each of the 40 students tonight will receive a
certificate officially acknowledging their link to an extraterrestrial
piece of real estate. Each student’s science teacher will be similarly

Lincoln Laboratory has discovered thousands of near-Earth asteroids, or
minor planets, since 1998 via the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research
(LINEAR) program. LINEAR currently detects about 70 percent of the
asteroids discovered every year.

Dr. David L. Briggs of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, director
of Lincoln Laboratory, has wanted to encourage science education in the
middle and secondary schools. Together with Dr. Grant Stokes, LINEAR’s
principal investigator, they came up with the idea of naming minor
planets for top science students and their teachers in grades five
through 12.

To find potential honorees, Stokes approached Science Service, which
organizes three major science competitions for students, including the
Discovery Young Scientist Challenge, which is the first science challenge
to include the asteroid honor. Stokes himself is a former high school
science fair winner in New Mexico.

Lincoln Laboratory and Science Service plan to expand the honor to
students and mentors for other competitions, including the Intel Science
Talent Search and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

In addition to the official certificates, students and teachers will
receive information on how to find their asteroids in the sky. Stokes
noted, however, that honorees will have to go to an observatory to see
their namesakes, as the asteroids are too tiny to detect with the naked
eye or a standard telescope. But size is relative. According to Dr.
Stokes, “Each asteroid is several kilometers in diameter, which is a
pretty big piece of real estate.”

Operated by MIT for more than 50 years, Lincoln Laboratory carries out
research and development in support of national security for the
Department of Defense and other government agencies. The LINEAR program
is supported by the United States Air Force and NASA.



Created by Discovery Communications, Inc., in 1999, the DYSC is a
national middle school science contest that encourages the communication,
exploration and understanding of science among America’s youth. Each
year, the Smithsonian Institution hosts the DYSC finalists, granting
them unprecedented access to renowned scientists and historians as
well as to museum laboratories and other research facilities. More


One of the most respected nonprofit organizations advancing the cause
of science, Science Service conducts high-quality competitions on the
national and international level, including the Intel Science Talent
Search and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. More