Asteroid Shatner is now officially part of our solar system

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Monday, June 12, 2017

Someone once said, "Good things come to those who wait." And I now can announce that a very good thing has happened, indeed: the Minor Planet Center (MPC) has officially named an asteroid for William Shatner. Shatner (31556) also goes by the moniker 1999 EP5. (Actually, the 5 is a subscript, but I don't know how to create one in this blogging software.)

Roy Tucker, who discovered the recently named asteroid Shatner, stands in front of Goodricke-Pigott Observatory, from which he has made a number of minor planet discoveries. // Roy A. Tucker
Roy A. Tucker, who operates Goodricke-Pigott Observatory, discovered this minor planet March 13, 1999. That date was the 69th anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of Pluto by Lowell Observatory. Roy works as a senior engineer in the Imaging Technology Laboratory of the University of Arizona.

As some of you may remember, I've been on a crusade to have an asteroid named for William Shatner for some time. You can read my first post about it here. But I can't name an asteroid, only its discoverer can do that. So, I contacted my friend Roy, who is a veteran asteroid hunter and discoverer, and I asked him if he had any discoveries that needed a name. I also pitched my feelings about Shatner not yet being so honored. Well, it just so happened that Roy did have an asteroid that needed a name. He asked me to write up a citation for the proposed naming. The MPC requires a citation, which says something about the person after whom the asteroid is being named. Here's the thing, tho: The citation can contain NO MORE than 320 characters. That's right. Characters. Try to summarize William Shatner's life with that limit! Anyway, I did the best that I could. Here's how the official designation reads:

"William Shatner (b. 1931) is a Canadian actor. Best known for portraying Captain James Tiberius Kirk in 'Star Trek,' he has attained the status of cultural icon. His character has inspired people to become writers, researchers, pilots and astronauts. Shatner is also a well-known author and director."

I send my sincere thanks to Roy Tucker for dedicating one of his discoveries to Shatner, and also to the folks at the MPC for agreeing that this was a worthy submission.

It's about time.

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