George Takei goes Stellar
Posted by shadmia on October 3, 2007
George Takei better known as Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek series has been immortalized in the stars. He just had an asteroid named after him. “I am now a heavenly body,” Takei, 70, said Tuesday, laughing. “I found out about it yesterday. … I was blown away. It came out of the clear, blue sky — just like an asteroid.”
The celestial rock was formerly known as 1994 GT9. It has been renamed 7307 Takei in honor of the actor. The asteroid is now listed with its new name at the JPL Small-Body Database Browser. In addition to scientific data, the page shows the citation for naming the body after Takei.
“I am honored, indeed transported to the galaxies, to know that my name has been assigned to an astronomical object in our solar system,” Takei said. “I am yet to come down to Earth.”
Asteroid 7307 Takei is approximately 5 miles in diameter, located in an orbit ranging between 2.5 and 3.0 AUs from the Sun in the mid-solar system asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter (an AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth). It was discovered in 1994 by two Japanese astronomers. The name was suggested by Tom H. Burbine, a Massachusetts astronomer, who cited Takei’s work with the Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign, as well as his celebrity status. “This is the name that will be used for all eternity,” he said.
Only about 14,000 asteroids have been named after specific people, out of about 400,000 such bodies known to exist. The renaming of 7307 Takei was approved by the International Astronomical Union’s Committee on Small Body Nomenclature. Under the committee’s policies, whoever discovers an asteroid has 10 years in which to propose a name. After that, the panel considers other suggestions, although it warns would-be namers to avoid anything “in questionable taste” and any names honoring political or military figures sooner than 100 years after their deaths.
Takei is now the third member of the Star Trek family to have an asteroid named after him. He joins the 4659 Roddenberry named for the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry and the 68410 Nichols for co-star Michelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Spock, Kirk and Scotty join their pals in space.