Asteroid 1978VT8 has a new name. The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union recently dubbed it 9271Trimble in honor of Virginia Trimble, UCI professor of physics & astronomy. “With roughly 7 billion people in the world and 700,000 known asteroids, one person in 10,000 could have one of these entities named after them, so it’s not that big a deal,” Trimble said modestly. “But I am the first at UCI, I think.” Discovered in 1978 (hence the original nomenclature) at the outer edge of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the small, rocky celestial body is about 13 kilometers in diameter, and its orbit period around the sun is approximately five years.
Trimble was nominated by colleagues for the honor in recognition of her long service to the IAU: She has been president and vice president of divisions within the organization and has been involved in IAU outreach and education activities for decades. “I’ve given my talk, ‘Cosmology: Man’s Place in the Universe,’ more than 200 times,” she said. Trimble, who came to UCI in 1971, is the longest-serving faculty member still on active duty in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. A well-known expert in astrophysics and scientometrics, she was also recently named a patron by the American Astronomical Society.