Leonard Nimoy’s Legacy Lives On in the Asteroid Belt

“Fascinating, Captain.” If he were alive today, Leonard Nimoy, who played the half Vulcan-half human Mr. Spock in the Star Trek TV and movies series, would undoubtedly have raised an eyebrow and uttered a signature “fascinating” at the news this week that an asteroid now bears his name.

4864 Nimoy, a mountain-sized rock roughly 6 miles (10 km) across, orbits the Sun once every 3.9 years within the inner part of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Vulcan, er Jupiter. 

Here’s the announcement from the Minor Planet Center made on June 2:

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. Credit: CBS Television
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. Credit: CBS Television

(4864) Nimoy = 1988 RA5
Discovered 1988 Sept. 2 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
Leonard Nimoy (1931–2015) was an American actor, film director and poet. Best known for his portrayal of the half-Vulcan/half-human science officer Spock in the original “Star Trek” TV series and subsequent movies, Nimoy wrote two autobiographies:
I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995).
M.P.C. 94384

4864 Nimoy was discovered by Belgian astronomer Henri Debehogne on September 2, 1988 and given the provisional designation 1988 RA5. This month, Spock’s “star” doesn’t get any brighter than 16th magnitude as it slowly tracks from Capricornus into Sagittarius in the late night sky. Come mid-July, amateurs with 14-inch or larger telescopes might glimpse it when it brightens to magnitude 15.

Spock – Fascinating!

Though portrayed as logical to a fault, Spock’s chilly exterior hid a heart as big as Jupiter. He was the hero of every nerd, and the perfect foil to Shatner’s Captain Kirk’s emotional excesses. Nimoy’s character showed that command of the facts and rational thinking made one very useful in dangerous and difficult situations. And great to poke fun at.

A few “Best of Spock” moments

While Leonard Nimoy’s name will forever tumble about the asteroid belt, his fictional character got there before him. Or did it? 2309 Mr. Spock (former 1971 QX1) was discovered by James Gibson on August 16, 1971. An outer main belt asteroid about 13 miles (21 km) across and orbiting the Sun every 5.23 years, it’s actually not named for the Star Trek character. Nope. Gibson named it for his cat.

The sky facing southeast around 2 a.m. in early June. Leonard Nimoy's asteroid is currently in Capricornus near its border with Sagittarius. Source: Stellarium
The sky facing southeast around 2 a.m. in early June. Leonard Nimoy’s asteroid is currently in Capricornus where it borders with Sagittarius. Source: Stellarium

The act prompted the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1985 to ban the use of pet names for asteroids. Aw, come on IAU, where’s your sense of humor? Then again, Nimoy’s Spock might have considered the new rule quite logical.

11 Replies to “Leonard Nimoy’s Legacy Lives On in the Asteroid Belt”

  1. I remember trying to watch the original Star Trek series back in high school and having my kid sister wailing away that the ‘aliens’ scared her! The P and M would then step in to defend the youngest and make me either change the channel or turn off the TV. I forget which other show was on at the same time… something SHE liked… possibly ‘Bewitched’?

    Don’t the plots, sets and costumes look primitive or even amatuerish from our perspective in 2015?

    1. Aqua,
      The outlines do. And the poor actors from every iteration of Star Trek were forever stretching and pulling at those velour tunics!

      1. ROTFL! I wonder if static electricity from those synthetics ever ‘ZAPPED’ one of the actors.. maybe shorted out a tri-corder or turbo lift? OR sent a message to the Klingons?

  2. It is a huge honor to have a solar system object named after you, the name will survive as long as the human race walks the earth. And the IAU’s computer doesnt crash. 😉

    Both me and my wife have an asteroid named after us, just recently in fact. Check out the official IAU certificate:


    Thanks for the article Bob!


    1. Wow – congratulations Chris! Yes, it is an honor and well deserved for your excellent astrophotography, some of which we’ve seen here on UT. Never knew about the fossils (another of my interests), so I’ll have to check that out.

  3. Thanks Bob! One of these days Ill have to try to image “our” asteroid. Its around 17th magnitude.


  4. Thanks Bob! We are all Star Trek lovers and let us not forget the First Mobile (Cell) Phones were seen on this great T.V. series along with other futuristic ideas and I am proud to say that another great sci-fi series Dr Who came out of my own neck of the woods Wales, It would have been good to see The Tardis (Police Box) land inside The Enterprise! Spock would have said… Fascinating! 🙂

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