Astronomer Names Asteroid ‘Hebrewu’


Proud alumni of Hebrew University in Jerusalem will go to great lengths to extoll their alma mater.

In David Levy’s case, it’s at least 33 million miles.

That’s how far away an asteroid discovered by Levy, who earned a Ph.D degree in the university’s English department in 2010 and serves as president of the National Sharing the Sky Foundation, is located – depending on the time of year. Levy this week named the 2-kilometer-across piece of rock in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Hebrewu.

The asteroid, according to a statement issued by the school, “poses no threat to Planet Earth and is not expected to draw near any time soon.”

As the discoverer of such a heavenly body, Levy has the prerogative of giving it a name recognized by the International Astronomical Union’s Committee on Small Body Nomenclature. Levy’s first choice, Hebrewuniversity, was considered too unwieldly. For scientific purists, the asteroid is also known as Asteroid 271,763.

The Montreal native, who has played a part in discovering 22 comets and 150 asteroids – including Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which collided with Jupiter in 1994 – discovered Hebrewu with his wife, Wendee, also based at the Jarnac Observatory in Vail, Ariz., and Canadian researcher Tom Glinos.

Hebrew is one of a score of universities for which an asteroid is named.

The university, said President Menachem Ben-Sasson, “is delighted by Dr. Levy’s extraordinary gesture and is proud to join the exclusive list of institutions whose names are recorded among the stars.”