He may have rocked the world with his amazing repertoire of songs as the frontman of British rock band Queen, but Freddie Mercury, known for his vivid imagination must not have thought even in his wildest dreams that someone would actually name a rock out in space after him. But that is exactly what has happened and it instantly reminds you of the most famous of the band’s hits ‘We Will Rock you’, that was as spectacular as it was moving – we can’t resist but say, now Mercury is really spaced out! To digress a bit, Freddie Mercury’s real name was Farrokh Balsara (1946-1991). He was an Indian and belonged to the Parsi community. The group that he founded went on to create Rock ‘n Roll feats that put it right at the top with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who and others.
While we have no idea whether Freddie Mercury liked to celebrate birthdays, but on what would have been his 70th, if he had lived (he died in November, 1991), Queen guitarist and himself an astrophysicist Brian May declared that an asteroid which is in orbit around Mars and Jupiter has been named to honour him and his artistic work.
Brian May in a statement 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 honor his 70th birthday. Henceforth, this object will be known as Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury.” Please do note the fact that the asteroid was discovered in 1991, which is the year Freddie died.
The naming of an asteroid after Freddie Mercury is kind of in character. After all did he not sing, in the song ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘…I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky….’ Well, nothing is going to stop this particular asteroid speeding along in the heavens, forever.
So, what is the orbit of Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury? Well, that rock has a lively lifestyle indeed (which would be quite in character with Freddie’s) and loops around the Sun at 20 kms per second at a slightly elliptical orbit. The closest it comes to Earth is 350 mn kilometers. Will Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury ever have an impact on Earth? No, say astrophysicists as its orbit will always keep it away from the Earth. That’s a blessing for sure, although it must be said that Freddie Mercury’s impact on Earth as a human being was quite sensational and enlivening, indeed.
According to May, Asteroid Freddie is “…in the main Asteroid Belt, out between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is about 3 and a half km across.” Can you see it? May says, “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.”