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Asteroid Gets A Rockstar Name After Queen’s Freddie Mercury

Sep 07, 2016 04:48 AM EDT
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There's now two "mercury" roaming in space. An asteroid has been recently named after singer Freddie Mercury from the legendary British band Queen in time for the rock legend's 70th birthday. 

The name of the asteroid was announced on Sunday by Brian May, astrophysicist and former lead guitarist of the popular rock band. May is also the co-founder of Asteroid Day, a campaign that aims to provide the public with knowledge about asteroid threat and the solutions within reach.

"It's like a cinder in space, as many of these asteroids are. You have to have a pretty decent telescope to see it," May said in the video announcement. "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 asteroid, known as Asteroid 17473, orbits in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and is about 2.2 miles in diameter. According to May, the asteroid -- now named "Freddiemercury" -- only reflects about one-third of the sun's light that hits it.

The new designation of the asteroid was recognized by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institute studies and names moons, minor planets, comets and asteroids in the solar system.

The asteroid, which was discovered by Belgian astronomer Henri Debehonge, moves around the sun at 20 km per second, The Guardian reports. It has a slightly elliptical orbit that is 350 million kilometers away from Earth. This means that the celestial body poses no imminent threat to the planet.

Mercury, whose real name was Farrokh Bulsara, died of complications from AIDS in London in 1991, the same year Asteroid 17473 was discovered. An earlier announcement had been made during the celebration of the singer's 70th birthday at the Montreux Casino on Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

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