|Saturday, 10 August 2002|
A Sri Lankan has reached stellar heights in astronomy, gaining the rare honour of having an asteroid named after him.
The International Astronomical Union recently renamed Asteroid (12871) 1998 ML37 as (12871) Samarasinha in honour of a Sri Lankan Astronomer, Dr. Nalin Samarasinha.
The only other Lankans with asteroids named after them are the Late Prof. Ganesh Chanmugam and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. However, Dr. Nalin Samarasinha can claim to be the first native born citizen of Sri Lanka to gain the distinction of having an Asteroid named after him.
The Asteroid "(12871) Samarasinha", found on June 24, 1998 by the Lowell Observatory, is estimated to have a diameter in the range of 5-10 kilometres. It is located in the Main Asteroid Belt. This particular Asteroid does not pose any danger to the Earth.
Beginning with his demonstration of the excited rotational state of 1P/Halley, Nalin who works for the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, Tucson, has carried out many studies of the dynamical evolution of cometary nuclei.
Dr. Samarasinha's primary and secondary education were at Hena Vidyalaya, Mt. Lavinia, and Nalanda College, Colombo, respectively. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Colombo, obtaining an Honours degree in Physics. Dr. Samarasinha's doctoral research was carried out at the University of Maryland, College Park (USA). He is now a researcher at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.
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