Faculty Bulletin Board

Asteroid is named for UCLA's Michael Jura

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Michael Jura in 1978
George Jacoby

Michael Jura in 1978

Michael Jura, a prominent UCLA professor of astronomy who died last year, has an asteroid named after him. Discovered in 1992, the asteroid is in a stable orbit in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is known as 6406 Mikejura, and should never come close to hitting the Earth.

The astronomical citation praises Jura, “whose research on polluted white dwarfs first enabled the measurement of the chemical compositions of extrasolar asteroids.”

Jura’s research spanned a broad range of topics, including intensity fluctuations in pulsars, excitation of molecular hydrogen, star formation and dust in galaxies, the chemical composition of interstellar gas, mass loss from red giant stars and diffuse interstellar bands. He was especially interested in planetary systems outside the Earth’s solar system — their comets, asteroids and planets — and in determining if there is life outside our solar system.

Jura and his last two graduate students, Siyi Xu and Beth Klein, are co-authors of research published last January showing that the building blocks for life on Earth — water, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen — are not unusual in the universe and could be “imported” to planets lacking them via collisions with minor planets containing them.

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