spaceSpace and Physics

Stephen Fry Gets His Own Asteroid


Stephen Luntz

Stephen has a science degree with a major in physics, an arts degree with majors in English Literature and History and Philosophy of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication.

Freelance Writer

950 Stephen Fry Gets His Own Asteroid
Stephen Fry has been honored with his own lump of space rock. Image CC BY-SA 3.0

Minor Planet 5190 has been officially named Fry by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The name is to honor the great actor, comedian and quiz show host Stephen Fry, rather than the Futurama hero, although we suspect that the great man wouldn't object to sharing the honor.

The IAU announced the naming in its monthly bulletin. More than 100 other minor planets were named at the same time, recognizing leading lights from fields as diverse as Swedish rock music (12671 Thornqvist), German acting (241475 Martinagedeck) and saving Hungarian codices from destruction (253412 Raskaylea).


The co-founders of a company dedicated to helping satellites to avoid collisions with space junk have been recognized as well, with 257336 Noeliasanchez and 257371 Miguelbello.

Sometimes it helps to have an astronomer in the family. Anne Marie Yvonne Maruy Van Der Donckt is a computer programmer and scuba diver, but benefited from being the sister of one of the finders of 27110 Annemaryvonne. At four years old Hauke Christoph Meyer probably hasn't achieved much at all, other than being born to the discoverer of 302652 Hauke.

In a lesson to educators everywhere, thirty lumps of space rock now bear the names of teachers who mentored entrants in the Intel Science Talent Search, while many others are named after winners in various divisions of the same competition.

You don't even need to be human, with 259387 Atauta honoring a small Spanish town known for its dark skies and good wine.


The process of giving a name to an asteroid can take decades. For example 5190 Fry was discovered in 1990 by prolific minor planet finders S. Ueda and H. Kaneda of Kushiro. This is because it can be a slow process to establish that an observation is not of an already known object. Objects with orbits falling into certain categories are limited to deities or creatures from Greek myth (and no, 5190 Fry does not have one of these orbits).

Once identification and orbit have been confirmed, the discoverer has ten years to choose the asteroid's name, although the IAU maintains the right to reject suggestions that are deemed offensive or unpronounceable.

Nevertheless, with 10 million twitter followers, Fry is probably better known, and better loved than all of the others announced this month put together. Fortunately, while you need to be dead for at least three years to have a crater on the Moon named after you, minor planet naming conventions are more relaxed. The world awaits Fry's response.


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