The Queen singer gets an asteroid for his 70th birthday.
Freddie Mercury would have been 70-years-old today, and to mark his birthday, the International Astronomical Union has decided to name an asteroid after him. His Queen co-member Brian May was on hand to celebrate the new proposal as part of the Freddie For A Day party in Montreux, Switzerland; the same town where his statue stands overlooking Lake Geneva.
Freddie Mercury gets an asteroid named after him
Brian May announced the exciting news in a video message released at the Freddie For A Day 70th birthday party at Montreux Casino, which benefits the AIDS charity Mercury Phoenix Trust. He briefly outlined everything that is known about this particular celestial body and read out the citation from the certificate issued by the IAU. Plus, there's a short video of the asteroid in action at the end.
'The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Centre, which operates out of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, has deemed it their duty and their pleasure to name an asteroid after Freddie', said Brian May. 'It's out in the main asteroid belt beyond the orbit of Mars and inside the orbit of Jupiter. It's about 3.5km across, it has an albedo of about point 3 which means it only reflects about one third of the light which falls upon it.'
Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury was coincidentally first discovered in 1991, the year of his death. According to May, it can be seen from Earth, but only with an especially powerful telescope. 'From the Earth it shines at the fourteenth magnitude which means you have to have a pretty decent telescope to see it', he adds. 'It's just a dot of light but it's a very special dot of light.'
May also read out the commemorative certificate's citation for Freddie. 'Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara 1946-1991) was a distinguished British songwriter and the lead singer for the legendary rock group Queen', it read. 'His incredible vocal range and distinctive sound and performance style made him one of the most well-known icons of rock music and he is regarded as one of the greatest rock singers of all time.'
Incidentally, Brian May himself is an astrophysicist having finally obtained his PhD at the Imperial College London in 2007. He'd initially abandoned his PhD in the 70s as Queen became huge. He actually also had an asteroid named after him, Asteroid 52665 Brianmay, in 2008 (as suggested by Sir Patrick Moore because of the initials in the provisional 1998 BM30 designation) and went on to co-founder Asteroid Day which takes place on June 30th.
More: Freddie Mercury's childhood home honoured by English Heritage
'Freddie Mercury sang, 'I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky' - and now that is even more true than ever before', said Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute. '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 get a name as well. In this case, the asteroid in question was discovered in 1991 and was given the provisional designation '1991 FM3'. It has been observed and its position and orbit measured over 1,100 times, and it was given the number 17473.'
Like May's asteroid, the proposal to name the rock after Freddie was partly due to the 'FM' in the initial designation. It's been quite the commemorative month for Freddie though; only last week did English Heritage unveil a blue plaque on his modest semi-detached childhood home in the London suburb of Feltham.