Thursday 27 October 2016

A shooting star leaping through the sky: asteroid named after Freddie Mercury on '70th birthday'

Sarah Knapton

Published 05/09/2016 | 11:08

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury

An asteroid has been named after Freddie Mercury to mark what would have been the singer’s 70th birthday.

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The Queen frontman who sang of ‘leaping through the sky’ like a shooting star in the hit Don’t Stop Me Now will have his name attached to Asteroid17473, which was discovered in 1991, the year of his death.

The honour was granted by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre, which has previously named asteroids after The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

Brian May , the Queen guitarist and astrophysicist announced the honour during a party in Switzerland to remember the singer last night.

"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,” said May.

“Henceforth this object will be known as Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury.  This announcement is to recognise Freddie’s outstanding influence in the world.

“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.”

The space rock sits in the main Asteroid Belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and is about two miles across.

The International Astronomical Union said that Mercury was given the honour because of his ‘distinctive sound and large vocal range were hallmarks of his performance style and he is regarded as one of the greatest rock singers of all time.’

Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute, who worked on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission, and applied 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’

“Even if you can't see Freddiemercury leaping through the sky, you can be sure he's there.”

Mercury's birth name was Farrokh Bulsara but he legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury around 1970, when Queen was formed.

He was voted number 59 in the BBC's poll of the 100 greatest Britons, but was born in Zanzibar. Mercury died in November 1991, just two days after publically  confirming that he had AIDS.

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