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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 05:52 GMT 06:52 UK
Snowdonia gives asteroid its name
Picture shows location of the asteroid, alongside the Snowdonia region
The asteroid's name highlights the Snowdonia National Park
A "mountain-sized" asteroid lying between Mars and Jupiter in the solar system has been named after the north Wales region of Snowdonia.

The asteroid was discovered three years ago by astronomers in Hawaii, but has only recently been given its new name.

"Snowdonia" was one of three suggestions made by the German leader of the observation team who had been on holiday in the area.

The final decision was made by school children who had helped on the project.

Asteroids are lumps of rocky debris that float around in the solar system.

"Snowdonia" is located between Mars and Jupiter, in what is called the Asteroid Belt.

If it hit us it would be big enough to wipe us out
Dr Edward Gomez, Cardiff University

It was discovered in 2004 by the Faulkes Telescope Project's facility in Hawaii. The project's operations centre is based at Cardiff University.

The university said the name paid tribute to the location of the centre, and drew attention to Snowdonia National Park.

Dr Edward Gomez from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University, said as it measured between 3-6 km across it was "quite sizable".

"Asteroids are not particularly uniform, however, and there are ones which are much larger and ones which are much smaller, although they don't go down to a grain of sand," he explained.

"If it hit us it would be big enough to wipe us out," he said, but explained that would not happen as it is not travelling towards the earth.

Tens of thousands of asteroids have been discovered, and a fair proportion of these are a similar size to the Snowdonia asteroid.

They are usually given a catalogue name, but are sometimes named properly, particularly if they are the subject of an educational project.

The asteroid was officially recognised as part of a near-earth object observing programme with German astronomers Lothar Kurtze and Felix Harmouth.

Schools from across the UK involved in helping observe, and collect data, included pupils from West Monmouth School in Pontypool and St David's Catholic College in Cardiff.

Kerry Pendergast, who teaches physics and astronomy at West Monmouth, said: "Observing and naming the new asteroid added an extra dimension to students' studies and helped them feel part of scientific discovery.

"When they had the chance to vote for a Welsh name there really was no competition!"

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