I'm outraged! William Shatner doesn't have an asteroid???

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Anyone remember this exchange from "The Immunity Syndrome," an episode of Star Trek (the Original Series):

     Spock: Vulcan has not been conquered within its collective memory. The memory goes back so far that no Vulcan can conceive of a conqueror. I knew the ship was lost because I sensed it.

     Kirk: What was it you sensed?

     Spock: Touch of death.

     Kirk: And what do you think they felt?

     Spock: Astonishment.

When I sat down for a press chat with actor William Shatner at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, he impressed me with his acute grasp of the cosmos and our place in it. // Astronomy: Michael E. Bakich
Now I know how that Vulcan crew must have felt! In perusing a list of named asteroids, I encountered 9777 Enterprise, 4864 Nimoy, 7307 Takei, and 68410 Nichols, all of which were named because of their roles in the legendary Star Trek TV series. There's even an asteroid named for that Johnny-come-lately dude, 274020 Skywalker. But none exists that bears the name of William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain James Tiberius Kirk. What is going on here?

Let me be clear that I do not begrudge any of the people named above their honor. In fact, I salute each of them. But William Shatner, as Captain Kirk, inspired more people to become writers, researchers, pilots, astronauts, and more, than anyone else I can think of. And while Leonard Nimoy's character, Commander Spock, may have been the series favorite, Kirk was the one who headed up the team, instituted the plans, and took responsibility for all the decisions.

This is an (albeit minor) injustice that has an easy solution. And while I claimed "outrage" in the title to this blog, my reaction doesn't come close to the vitriol that I level at the Nobel Prize committee for ignoring Vera Rubin for several decades. Her pioneering work on galaxy rotation led to astronomers proving the existence of dark matter.

But, hey, one thing at a time, right? So, let me appeal to those of you reading this who are involved in asteroid hunting. When it comes time for you to propose a name for one of your discoveries, why not suggest "Shatner" to the Minor Planet Center? It really is the right thing to do.

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