Asteroid named after Freddie Mercury to mark Queen singer’s 70th birthday

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An asteroid, originally discovered in 1991, was yesterday named in honour of Freddie Mercury to mark the 70th anniversary of the Queen singer’s birth.

Brian May, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist, announced the honour at a celebration marking the flamboyant singer’s birthday in Montreux, Switzerland.

Meanwhile Queen fans around the world, including Matt Lucas and James Bay, recreated his famous sing-alongs (sampled here).

May said: “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.

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

May said the object, which has been awarded a formal certificate of adoption, could be found in “the main Asteroid Belt, out between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is about 3 and a half km across.”

The musician added: “It has an albedo (measure of reflectivity) 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.”

Issuing the Certificate of Designation, Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute, said: “Singer Freddie Mercury sang, ‘I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky’ – and now that is even more true than ever before.

“In celebration of his 70th birthday, an asteroid has been named Freddiemercury in honor of the charismatic singer for the band Queen.”

Asteroid names are governed by the International Astronomical Union and published by the Minor Planet Center.

When an asteroid is initially discovered it is given a “provisional designation” until enough measurements have been made that its orbit is accurately determined.

At that point, it is given a number and is eligible to receive a name.

May, who attained a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London in 2007 and is a co-founder of the awareness campaign Asteroid Day, was previously honoured with his own rocky body.

Asteroid 52665 Brianmay was named after the rock star in 2008, on the suggestion of the late Sir Patrick Moore.

May, whose PhD was titled, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, asked earlier this year: “Why do we want to rendezvous with an asteroid? Well we need to know what would happen if one of those asteroids hit the earth.”

Other famous figures to have asteroids named in their honour include Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Harry Potter author JK Rowling.