Leonard Nimoy may have departed this Earth, but his memory will now float around space forever.
The legendary Star Trek actor died this year after a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although many Star Trek fans headed online to pour out their tributes, they were not alone. The scientific and astronomical communities also paid their respects to the science-fiction icon. NASA astronaut Terry Virts photographed himself issuing a Vulcan salute from the International Space Station, while it has recently been revealed that the International Astronomical Union has also named an asteroid after the film star and musician.
From now on, 'Asteroid 4864' will be known as '4864 Nimoy.' The asteroid is around 10km across and is in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. According to Slate, it orbits the Sun once every 3.9 years and was first discovered in 1988 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory. Due to its position, it is also likely to contain ice. You can check out its position on the day of his death below:
Who Names Asteroids?
When asteroids and other astronomical objects are first discovered, they are usually just given a unique numbered designation. Those which are particularly interesting or near to Earth are then given names which must be approved by the International Astronomical Union. Near-Earth objects, which are often asteroids, are usually named after mythological figures, while further out objects can be given other titles.
The sheer number of asteroids means astronomers have long since turned to historical figures, fictional characters, musicians, bands, actors, celebrities (both alive and dead) and contest winners to name asteroids. Here are some examples:
- 4749 Ledzeppelin (UK band)
- 7934 Sinatra (Frank Sinatra)
- 19367 Pink Floyd (UK band)
- 110393 Rammstein (German band)
- 342843 Davidbowie (David Bowie)
- 7307 Takei (George Takai)
- 8883 Miyazakihayao (Hayao Miyazaki, animator)
- 9974 Brody (Adrian Brody)
- 25930 Spielberg (Steven Spielberg)
- 12820 Robinwilliams (Robin Williams)
- 28600 Georgelucas (George Lucas)
- 12373 Lancearmstrong (Lance Armstrong)
- 2309 Mr. Spock (Mr. Spock, Nimoy's Star Trek character)
- 9007 James Bond
- 12410 Donald Duck
Don't worry, though, in reality, only 5% of asteroids have actually received names, meaning there's still plenty of time if you want to get one of your own.