Asteroids and Celebrities
Asteroids! Planetary scientists have found and mapped about 700,000 of them and some estimate upwards of 150 million asteroids in our solar system. Most of them are in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter.
David Bowie has one named after him. Prince does not, though both have songs about being in space. Recently Freddie Mercury was awarded one on his 70th posthumous birthday, which seems a fitting tribute to a star, whose life was cut short by AIDS.
Most asteroids have provisional designations. The full list of human-named asteroids are here. A few pets and fictional characters have even made it onto the list.
I saw this as an opportunity, as part of my SETI Artist-in-Residency to work with asteroid orbital data from JPL, estimated spaceship velocities* and create a new work called Celebrity Asteroid Journeys, which charts imaginary travels from one asteroid to another as silkscreen prints on wood panels.
Celebrity Asteroid Journey: Make Believe Land Mashup
I will be presenting the Celebrity Asteroid Journeys as part of my Machine Data Dreams solo show at Black and White Projects. The reception is on Saturday, November 5th, 7-9pm.
Representation is important and the list of asteroids-named-after people is no exception. Even though the majority of the asteroids are named after Western men, I worked to balance as much as possible.
CELEBRITY ASTEROID JOURNEY: SINGERS
And how are asteroids named? According to my research, they are first given a provisional name. Then, when the orbit is determined, it is assigned a sequential number. The discoverer of the asteroid can then request from the International Astronomical Union to give the asteroid a formal name.
*the spaceship speeds do not use true acceleration and deceleration (the math was beyond my skills), but I did work with the best numbers I could find, about 140,000km/hour using a nuclear-electric engine.