An asteroid has been named after Freddie Mercury to coincide with what would have been his 70th birthday on Sunday.
Brian May, the guitarist behind the band “Queen” turned astrophysicist, made the announcement via YouTube, “I’m happy to be able to announce that the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center has today designated Asteroid 17473, discovered 1991, in Freddie’s name, timed to honour his 70th birthday,”
Aptly named, the singer who once sang the lyrics “I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky…defying the laws of gravity,” in Queen’s hit song Don’t Stop Me Now. Naming of the asteroid was given the nod of approval by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre.
Asteroid 17473 now named Asteroid 17473 Freddie Mercury exists in an elliptical orbit around the Sun at 20km per second, in a belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Spanning just over 2 miles or 3.5 kilometers, it is composed of rock and heavy metal elements. Its orbit brings the object to within 350 million kilometers to earth at the closest passing.
Discovered in 1991, the asteroid’s naming coincides poetically with Mercury’s death also in 1991. Joel Parker, who assisted May in applying for the honour said, “The name approved by the IAU is the formal and official name forever to be associated with this asteroid; so, any scientific papers in the future that study this asteroid will refer to it as ‘17473 Freddiemercury.”
The Queen frontman is not to be bestowed the honour of having a galactic object named after them. Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Don Bradman, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Enya and also Brian May himself have asteroids named after them.
Queen fans unfortunately will be unable to see the asteroid with the naked eye, as the asteroid reflects on 30% of the sunlight which hits it. Only astronomers with relatively powerful telescopes will be able to see the asteroid. “You need a pretty decent telescope to see it. It’s just a dot of light but it’s a very special dot of light and maybe one day we’ll get there,” said May in the video.
Forming in 1970, Queen produced 14 albums until 1991 when lead singer Freddie Mercury passed away. Going public with his battle with AIDS two days before his death, he died of bronchopneumonia. Mercury is renowned for having an incredible vocal range and versatility. With record sales estimated to be within 150 and 300 million, they are regarded as one of the world’sbest-sellingg bands.
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