When Freddie Mercury sang Don’t stop me now and reached the stanza that began “I’m a shooting star leaping through the skies“(I am a shooting star leaping through the skies), not even in his best dreams did he imagine that he would ever really jump through the sky. But not as a star, but as an asteroid. On September 5, 2016, the vocalist from Queen I would have turned 70 years old. That day he received a very special gift: ‘Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury’.
Announced it Brian May at the Montreux Casino (Switzerland) in front of 1,250 fans. “I am happy to announce that the Center for Minor Planets and the International Astronomical Union have designated Asteroid 17473, discovered in 1991 (the year he died), with the name of Freddie in commemoration of his 70th birthday. From now on, this object will be known as Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury. This recognizes the exceptional influence of Freddie in the world. “
“A very special point of light”
The Queen guitarist and doctor in Astrophysics, continued “Where is Freddiemercury? It is in the Asteroid Belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and measures around 3.5 km long. It is a kind of ash in space, like many of these asteroids. You need a very powerful telescope to see it. It is only a point of light, but it is a very special point of light and maybe one day we will get there. “
“Even if you can’t see Freddiemercury jumping through the sky, you can be sure he’s there, ‘floating around in ectasy’ (‘floating around in ectasy’, as he sang in Don’t stop me now) for all eternity” added lead astronomer Joel Parker.
Freddie Mercury, performing with QUEEN at Madison Square Garden. / Richard E. Aaron/Redferns
The small celestial body baptized as the rock star moves around the sun at 20 km per second in a slight elliptical orbit that the closest it has been to the Earth is at 350 million kilometers. Thus, it is very difficult for Freddiemercury to impact our planet. At least we hope so and we trust that these other verses of the song included in the album Jazz (1978) were not premonitory:
I’m a rocket bound for Mars
Straight to the collision
I’m a satellite, I’m out of control
‘Freddiemercury’ was born when Freddie Mercury died
In 1991, the year Freddie died, Belgian astronomer Henri Debehogne discovered the asteroid at an observatory in northern Chile. At that time it was given a provisional name ‘1991 FM3’. It was examined and its position and orbit measurements were made more than 1,100 times. It was then assigned the number 17473. When the Center for Minor Planets received the proposal to name an asteroid after Freddie Mercury, that was the one chosen, in part because it was called ‘FM’, the initials of the star .
A belt of rock stars floating in the Universe
The ‘17473 Freddiemercury’ is the second asteroid named after a member of Queen. Because Brian May also has his since 2008: the ‘52665 Brianmay’, discovered in 1998. And there is more. There is a whole asteroid belt named after figures of pop and rock roaming the Universe. In the orbit of Mars is the ‘8749 Beatles’. In addition, the four members of the band have, individually, one of these rocky bodies baptized, in this case, with their last name: (4148) McCartney, (4147) Lennon, (4149) Harrison and (4150) Starr.
The ‘17473 Freddiemercury’ is the second asteroid named after a member of Queen. Because Brian May also has his since 2008: the ‘52665 Brianmay’
Other bands that hold the same honor in the space are, for example, the members of Rush: guitarist Alex Lifeson (19155 Lifeson), vocalist and bassist Geddy Lee (12262 Geddylee) and drummer Neil Elwood Peart (23469 Neilpeart). Or the Bee Gees, whose asteroid orbits the Sun and was discovered by John Broughton on March 15, 1999. The musicians grew up in Australia, just 100 kilometers from the Reedy Creek Observatory where the ‘15092 Beegees’ was discovered.
Likewise, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, ZZ Top, Yes, Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen or Rammstein have interplanetary rocks named after them.
That is why the American astronomer Joel Parker from the Southwest Research Institute showed his surprise when he discovered that Mercury did not have an asteroid: “I was surprised to discover it,” he declared in the Daily Camera. “The Beatles have asteroids, Jimi Hendrix has an asteroid, I thought surely Freddie Mercury would have his. I proposed it to Brian and he thought it was a great idea. “
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The fascinating story of how Freddie Mercury became an asteroid: It is “a very special point of light” | LOS40 Classic