On Sunday night, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May announced an appropriately starry honor for his late bandmate Freddie Mercury: Asteroid 17473 has been renamed Freddiemercury.
May made the announcement in a video (above) which was broadcast at a birthday party held for Mercury in Montreux, Switzerland. In the video and on his charmingly retro website, May explained a bit about how the naming happened and the distant rock which now bears the iconic lead singer's name:
I’m grateful to my dear friend Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute (active in the recent groundbreaking NASA Pluto mission and ESA’s Rosetta mission), for working on this idea, and making this happen.
Where is Freddie’s Asteroid ? It’s in the main Asteroid Belt, out between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is about 3 and a half km across. It has an albedo of about 0.3 – which means it only reflects about 30 per cent of the light that falls on it; like many asteroids, it’s a dark object – rather like a cinder in space. Viewed from the Earth it is more than 10,000 times fainter than you can see by eye, so you need a fair-sized telescope to see it … and that’s why it wasn’t discovered until 1991.
Scientific details including charts are also available on May's site.
The Guardian spoke with Chris Lintott, a professor of astrophysics at Oxford, who said that he thought it was "wonderful to name an asteroid after Freddie Mercury" and noted that Mercury joins a pretty long list of celebs who've received a similar honor, such as "all the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Bowie and, weirdly, the band Yes."
Sounds like a perfectly appropriate honor to mark the birthday of the man who once sang, "I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky."