Asteroid named after Malaysian teen

PETALING JAYA: Seventeen-year-old Faye Jong Sow Fei from Sarawak literally has her name carved in the universe after becoming the first Malaysian to have an asteroid named after her.

The Lincoln Observatory Near-Earth Object Team (Linear) has named the asteroid as 31460Jongsowfei (1999 CV19) to honour her success at last year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her environmental management project.

"I am very honoured for the award. I was informed last year that the asteroid will be named after me. I am very delighted having won the competition last year.

"It was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and I hope that those following my footsteps one day will make full use of the golden chance that is bestowed upon them to weave wonderful and lasting memories that will be with them forever," Jong said when contacted by theSun. The "absolute magnitude" asteroid was actually discovered on Feb 10, 1999 by the Lincoln Linear.

"I have checked with the National Space Agency (Angkasa) and they told me I was the first Malaysian to receive such an honour and I am pleased with that," Jong said.

31460 Jongsowfei is one of over a hundred new planets given new names, as the process of giving a name to an asteroid can take decades as experts must establish that they are not observing an already known object, which is hard, since asteroids all look almost similar.

Jong won the Environmental Management Award last year through the presentation of the project entitled "Biowaste as Eco-Friendly Materials Mordants in Fabric Dye Process".

She is the first Malaysian to win the grand prize at the competition participated by 1,700 students representing 70 countries last year.

She also received US$5,000 (about RM16,000) for the best category and US$3,000 for the first prize and was selected among the three participants to join the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Warsaw, Poland in September.