Columbus State professor’s name joins wife’s, in heavens

What’s in a name?

If you’re Andy Puckett, it’s a place among the stars.

The Columbus State University astrophysics professor now has an asteroid named after him. Puckett, who has been teaching at the Georgia school since 2013, tracks and characterizes small bodies in the solar system and has co-discovered more than 40 minor planets or asteroids.

“It’s really fun to discover something, but the idea that you can actually attach a name to something that will be used forever is pretty awesome,” Puckett said.

So awesome, in fact, that almost a decade ago the astrophysicist named an asteroid he discovered after his wife, Rebecca, because it was discovered three days before their first wedding anniversary in 2006. Good luck to the rest of us topping that gift for our own anniversaries this year.

Puckett originally wanted to name his wife’s asteroid Rebeccapuckett, but his attempts were foiled by the strict international naming rules of celestial bodies.

“Some objects get lost, but if they continue to get observed for about five to 10 years, the object becomes so well known it gets a name,” he said. “The discoverer is allowed to suggest a name, but you can’t name it after your pet, an active political figure or yourself.”

Too bad. We were looking forward to a BoObama or DonaldTrump asteroid.

Using Rebecca’s first and middle name was allowed and asteroid 178226 officially became Rebeccalouise.

Now, almost ten years later, Puckett gets his own asteroid. The International Astronomical Union recently named asteroid 184011 as Andypuckett, after it was suggested by a colleague who wanted to honor Puckett’s work in astronomy.

“Knowing that it’s out there as the official name, and if anyone ever studies that object, it will be with my name … well, it feels amazing to have that kind of permanency,” he said.

So what about all the rest of those celestial bodies discovered by Puckett floating namelessly in space? The lucky students in his classes this semester will help come up with names.

We’re guessing asteroid FAFSA, MOOC or STEM might make the list.