Phillip Lu, who earned a master’s degree in astronomy from Wesleyan in 1965, was recently honored in a very special way: A former student who discovered an asteroid named the object after him.
According to The Hartford Courant, the asteroid was discovered in 2006 by astronomer H.C. Lin, the director of the National Lulin Observatory in Taiwan, and it has been seen 106 times since then, enough to have its orbit charted. As the discoverer, Lin was entitled to recommend a name for the asteroid to the International Astronomical Union. He chose to name it 175450 Phillipklu after his beloved teacher.
In his self-deprecating way, Lu told the Courant: “It’s kind of a surprise. I didn’t really expect this…It means somebody didn’t forget me, that’s all!”
When a friend congratulated him on the asteroid, Lu–who has been writing poetry since his retirement–responded in verse:
“One tiny speck moves around our sun,
Carrying my name among planets,
The name, perhaps, is a bit immortal,
But never stops the erosion of my mortal body.”
Lu is a native of China, who attended college in Taiwan. There were no astronomy majors or classes available in Taiwan at the time, so Lu came to Wesleyan to earn his master’s degree in astronomy. He went on to Columbia University for a Ph.D., and to Yale for post-doctoral work. He taught for nearly three decades at Western Connecticut State University before retiring in 1999.