Freddie Mercury would have turned 70 yesterday. To honor the occasion, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May named an asteroid after the legendary singer. Asteroid 17473, discovered in 1991 near the time of Mercury’s death, is now “Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury.” Moving at 12 miles a second at only a fraction of the brightness the human eye can perceive, Freddiemercury is not quite as radiant as its namesake. The gesture, however, is poignant.
“You need a pretty decent telescope to see it,” explained May. “It’s just a dot of light but it’s a very special dot of light and maybe one day we’ll get there.”
This move feels almost overdue: Mercury’s voice and stage presence were truly stellar, so it is appropriate that he now shares a name with not one, but two extraterrestrial bodies. One of Mercury’s most famous lyrics is, “I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky / Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity,” from Queen’s 1978 hit “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
Luckily, the “Don’t Stop Me Now” parallel is limited, as Freddiemercury is not “on a collision course.” It orbits the sun elliptically at more than 217 million miles from Earth, and so presents no threat to our planet at the present time, according to The Guardian.