"Fifth Rock from the Sun"
As of January 14, 2004 a piece of space rock, or more properly a minor planet or asteroid, is officially known as "Huziak" after AAVSO member and observer, Richard Huziak. Richard is a prolific AAVSO observer and is a recipient of the AAVSO's Director's award. He was president of the Saskatoon Centre of the RASC for 6 years, and received the RASC's Chant Medal, for outstanding research in the field of amateur astronomy. He was also intimately involved with the discovery of P/2001Q2 Comet Petriew in 2001 as well.
The asteroid "Huziak" was named by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in a citation that reads as follows:
"Richard Huziak (b. 1957) is a Canadian amateur astronomer with wide-ranging interests, which he pursues with a 0.25-m telescope. He has been a most enthusiastic supporter of the Royal Canadian Astronomical Society, Saskatoon Centre, as well as of the American Association of Variable Star Observers."
Huziak is a main belt asteroid which means that it orbits the Sun, along with thousands of other main belt asteroids, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. These thousands of asteroids are believed to be the remnants of a planet that failed to form 5 billion years ago when the other planets were forming out of the dust disk left behind from the formation of the Sun. Ceres was the first asteroid in this group to be discovered, in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi in southern Europe (modern northern Italy) with the discovery of several more asteroids following in the next few years. Huziak was discovered in 1981 by L.G. Taff from Socorro, New Mexico.
Using the brightness of the asteroid at the distance of the main belt, a diameter of 20.8 kilometers can be inferred. It is probably covered with dark soil and it doesn't get very bright as seen from Earth. In January it was somewhere in the constellation of Pisces at 17.8 magnitudes. So you would need really dark skies and maybe a 20-inch telescope or larger to see it. The brightest it ever gets is magnitude 15.1 which will occur in April of 2008. NASA has developed an interactive java applet 3-D orbital visualization tool for asteroid Huziak.
The AAVSO extends its heartfelt congratulations to Rick on his accomplishments and this much deserved recognition of his work!
Credit: "Mercury, Venus, Mars, HUZIAK, Jupiter ..." by Gordon Sarty in the February 2004 issue of the Saskatoon Skies.