Press Release

Asteroid Named for LSU Chancellor Sean O’Keefe

By SpaceRef Editor
November 17, 2005
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Asteroid Named for LSU Chancellor Sean O’Keefe

LSU Chancellor Sean O’Keefe is now in the company of Jodie Foster, Sean Connery, Monty Python and Beethoven.

During a visit to LSU earlier this month, Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, announced that an asteroid had been named for O’Keefe, putting him on a list that includes the likes of Connery, Beethoven and the others. He also presented O’Keefe with a plaque signifying the official designation of Asteroid 78905 as Asteroid Seanokeefe.

The plaque contains a photograph of space that points out the asteroid’s location, as well as an inscription that reads “Named in honor of Sean O’Keefe (b. 1956), for his vision and leadership in advancing the spirit of exploration during his tenure as the 10th NASA Administrator, 2001 – 2004.”

Asteroid Seanokeefe was discovered on Sept. 16, 2003, by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking Project, or NEAT, using a telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego.

At the time of its discovery, Seanokeefe was in the constellation Pegasus and was given the designation 2003 SK85 by the Minor Planet Center, an organization based at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory that collects, computes, checks and disseminates information about minor planets, including asteroids and comets. Designations are based upon the year, month and order in which the object was discovered and received by the center.

After enough observations had been made to provide an accurate orbit for the asteroid, it was given a number, 78905, and became available for naming. The name “O’Keefe” was submitted first to the International Astronomical Union, or IAU, but that name was already assigned to an asteroid. A few months later, the IAU accepted and approved the name “Seanokeefe.”

Seanokeefe orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.

The International Astronomical Union was founded in 1919 in order “to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation.” There are more than 12,000 asteroids named officially by the IAU. A full list is available at

Rob Anderson
LSU Media Relations

SpaceRef staff editor.