Bryce Canyon Gets Its Own "Minor Planet"
How cool is this? The International Astronomical Union has named a space rock after Bryce Canyon National Park.
"Minor planet 49272," which is, oh, about 200 million miles from Earth between Mars and Jupiter, is only three-to-five miles in diameter, or about the same size as the national park. It was discovered in 1998 by astronomer Roy Tucker, who earlier this year agreed to name the asteroid "Bryce Canyon" in honor of the park and its public stargazing programs.
Patrick Wiggins, an amateur astronomer from Salt Lake and a NASA Solar System Ambassador, convinced Tucker to bestow the park's name on the asteroid.
“There are few places in the world darker than Bryce Canyon— it is one of the last holdouts of natural darkness, far from city lights,” says Wiggins. “If you haven’t seen a truly dark sky, you don’t know what you are missing.”
The park's stargazing programs date to 1969. Throughout the summer rangers typically offer the programs most Wednesdays and Fridays. Next month, from June 13-16, the park will celebrate its annual Astronomy Festival.
Believe it or not, Bryce Canyon is not the first national park to be honored with an asteroid of its own. Sequoia National Park previously received the honor. Unfortunately, you can't see Bryce Canyon's asteroid with your typical backyard telescope.
“Those attending one of Bryce Canyon’s popular stargazing programs won’t likely be able to see the small asteroid through a park telescope, however there are plenty of other sights in the heavens that will impress,” says Kevin Pope, the park's acting chief of interpretation.