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MINOR PLANET NAMED FOR ODU ALUM

Mark Thiemens has a master's degree in oceanography from Old Dominion University, but some of his most impressive work at the University of California, San Diego, where he is dean of the Division of Physical Sciences, has involved meteorites. Now he has a minor planet named for him in honor of his work.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the clearinghouse for naming small orbiting bodies, said Asteroid 7004, which was discovered in 1979, was named for Thiemens early in August. The new name is Asteroid 7004 Markthiemens.

The honor was bestowed in recognition of Thiemens' work by Schelte J. Bus II, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, who discovered the asteroid.
Light reflected from the surface of the asteroid suggests that it is about six miles in diameter. Its orbit of the sun extends almost to the orbit of Mars.

"As someone who has loved space and space science since I was a kid, and who has spent a research career involved with space and rockets, this is a wonderful acknowledgement," said Thiemens, who is also professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD.

He received his master's from ODU in 1975 and said his interest in science began during his teenage years in Portsmouth after he and his mother visited the laboratory of the late ODU oceanography professor Jacques Zaneveld.

Earlier this year, Thiemens was elected to the National Academy of Science for distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

One of Thiemens' grandest achievements was his discovering in 1983 of the "mass-independent isotope effect." He showed that scientists had been wrong to believe that there is no chemical mechanism that may produce a variation of stable isotopes in a manner that is independent of mass. The discovery greatly enhances the usefulness of isotope analysis in atmospheric chemistry studies and at the same time was a fundamental breakthrough in the quantum theory of isotope effects.

This article was posted on: August 17, 2006

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