The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre (IAU) has honoured late rock legend and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury by renaming an asteroid after him.
The asteroid, originally named “ 1991 FM3”, was discovered in the year of Mercury’s death. It was renamed “Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury” on Monday, which would have been the rocker's 70th birthday.
"This is to recognise Freddie's outstanding influence in the world," says former Queen guitarist and astrophysicist, Brian May.
Mercury isn’t the first world icon to have a celestial object named after him. The honour has been bestowed upon guitarist Carlos Santana, actress Marilyn Monroe, and even tennis star Roger Federer.
The asteroid is one of many within the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is 3.5km-wide and can hardly be seen by telescope.
"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," says May.
Fans of Mercury haven’t overlooked how aptly these events fit with the singer’s famous lyric - "I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky" – from the hit song "Don't Stop Me Now”.
The new Certificate of Designation was issued by Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
He says, “Even if you can't see Freddiemercury leaping through the sky, you can be sure he's there - 'floating around in ecstasy', as he might sing, for millennia to come."