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Freddie Mercury Gets an Asteroid Named After Him

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1978’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” Queen singer Freddie Mercury described himself as “a shooting star leaping through the sky” and “travelin’ at the speed of light.” Nearly 40 years later, he’s come pretty close to being the real thing. It was revealed that an asteroid has been named in honor of what would have been his 70th birthday, which is today (Sept. 5).

Fittingly, the news was announced by guitarist Brian May, who has a PhD in astrophysics. The Guardian reports that he sent a video messsage to guests at a “Freddie for a Day” party at the Montreux Casino in Montreux, Switzerland –the same one immortalized in Deep Purple‘s “Smoke on the Water.” He said that the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center, which is part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., has designated asteroid 17473 as “Freddiemercury.”

The article describes the asteroid as a “3.5km-wide ball of black rubble” on the other side of Mars.” It was discovered by Henri Debehogne in 1991 and moves at 20 kilometers (12 miles) per second, considerably slower than the speed of light. Its orbit around the sun has never taken it closer to Earth than 350 million kilometers (217 million miles).

“It’s like a cinder in space as many of these asteroids are,” May said. “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.”

The party was thrown by Peter “Phoebe” Freestone, Mercury’s former assistant and cook. Guests were asked to wear yellow costumes and several of Mercury’s favorite dishes were served.

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