June was a decent month for Farmington Hills native Jordan Steckloff.
The Harrison High alum (through East Middle School and Highmeadow Common Campus) became a first-time father. Leaf Hopkins Steckloff entered the world on June 12.
As his wife, Holly, was in labor, Steckloff’s phone started blowing up with congratulatory messages–but not about the baby. A newly discovered asteroid had been named in his honor.
Steckloff, who works as a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, said he doesn’t know exactly how that happened. When a person or group discovers an asteroid, they get to name it.
“It was discovered in 2000 by a group at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona,” he said. “I honestly don’t know who proposed the name, but I’m deeply honored.”
Steckloff has done most of his work in small body science: asteroids, comets, outer moons. His Ph.D. centered entirely around comet science and asking questions like, can we trigger an avalanche on a comet? (The answer, he said, is yes, but it’s very slow.)
Steckloff’s fascination with space dates back to childhood, although it was tough to see the stars in Farmington Hills.
“The thing that clinched it for me was seeing Comet Hale Bop in 1996,” he recalled. “My family had just left Buddy’s (Pizza) on Northwestern, and there was this fuzzy white dot, a blob in the sky. I thought, ‘That is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.’.”
Taking a “solar system” perspective, Steckloff said, is “deeply humbling… All the conflicts and problems on Earth seem kind of small. We all have the same home. Why don’t we just work together to maintain it?”
Having a child has also changed Steckloff’s perspective. He finds both his work in space and fatherhood “deeply fulfilling, but in very different ways.”
“Both of them bring up this childhood wonder for me,” Steckloff said. “I feel like part of my job as a parent is to expose him to as many things as possible. Along the way, I hope he can catch this bug about how do things work. How do plants know when to drop their leaves? I want to know how this works.”
“I’m really looking forward to watching him learn about the world,” he added. “I think that’s going to be fun.”
Watch a model that shows the Steckloff asteroid’s orbit: ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=37019;orb=1;cov=0