Monday 10 July 2023

Star Gay-zing: Queer Asteroid Update

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but been a lot of reports about a newly discovered asteroid that is following us around in Earth’s orbit, like a couple of other “quasi-moons” we have. Perhaps it’s only me that has noticed because I’m interested in them.

But it made me think that it is about time I did an update on the asteroids that have been named after members of the lgbt+ community. So, here it is.

Each asteroid is preceded by its official number and name, its date of discovery, the date when the name was published, a quote from the official citation, and finally other notes of queer interest I can add.

2223 Sarpedon

Discovered 3 October 1977. Published 1 August 1991.

“One of the leaders of the Lycians, Sarpedon was killed by Patroclus in the Trojan War. At the command of Zeus, his body was seized by Apollo and returned to Lycia.”

Sarpedon was the lover of Prince Atymnius of Ethiopia, the son of King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia. Patroclus, Zeus and Apollo are also lgbt+, and have asteroids named after them.

3200 Phaeton

Discovered 11 October 1983. Published 2 July 1985.

“This object associated with the Geminid meteor stream has the smallest known perihelion distance for a body in a short-period orbit and is named for the son of Helios, who operated the solar chariot for a day, lost control of it and almost set fire to the Earth.”

The god Zeus shot Phaeton out of the sky with a thunderbolt and he fell into the River Po. Phaeton’s lover, Cycnus, mourned his death and was turned into a swan by Apollo. You can read the full story here.

7091 Maryfields

Discovered 1 May 1992. Published 8 Nov 2019.

“Stagecoach Mary Fields (c.1832-1914) was an African-American folk hero and trailblazer. She was a mail carrier in Montana in her 60's, braving harsh weather but never missing a day. Loved by her community, her birthday was a local holiday. She refused to be limited by social norms or laws.”

I wrote about her “Extraordinary Life” several years ago, here.

26883 Marcelproust

Discovered 12 August 1994. Published 28 July 2021.

“Marcel Proust (1871–1922) was a French novelist and essayist, widely considered to be one of the most influential author of the 20th century. His monumental novel ‘Á la recherche du temps perdu’ was published in seven volumes between 1913 and 1927, the last three volumes being edited by his brother, Robert.”

This is the second asteroid named after the gay author, the first being 4474 Proust (listed here). Although the official citation of 4474 Proust specifically identifies the astrophysicist Dominique Proust as the individual after whom this asteroid is named, it states that it also honours Marcel Proust.

27400 Mikewong

Discovered 11 Mar 2000. Published 11 June 2021.

“Mike Wong (b.1971) is a planetary scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies giant planets in the Solar System. He is part of the team that discovered a moon around asteroid 624 Hektor, and he studied a 2009 impact on Jupiter while monitoring of the atmosphere with adaptive optics.”

His work on 624 Hektor with his colleague Frank Marchis, a fellow openly gay astrophysicist, is told here.

38083 Rhadamanthus

Discovered 17 April 1999. Published 24 July 2002.

“Rhadamanthus was a son of Zeus and Europa. Because of his just and upright life, after death he was appointed a judge of the dead and the ruler of Elysium, a blissfully beautiful area of the Underworld where those favoured by the gods spent their life after death.”

The Greek writer Athenaeus (170 AD-223 AD) wrote that Rhadamanthus was the lover of Talos (a human, not the giant bronze statue that came to life, as depicted in the film “Jason and the Argonauts”).

85030 Admetos

Discovered 24 September 1960. Published 28 October 2004.

“Admetus (Admetos), from Greek mythology. The King of Pherae was saved by Apollo from his fated death when his wife Alcestis offers to die in his place, father of Eumelos, the best charioteer in the Greek army during the Trojan War.”

One of Apollo’s many male lovers.

343158 Marsyas

Discovered 29 Apiil 2009. Published 14 May 2021.

“Marsyas, a Phrygian Satyr dared oppose Apollo in a musical duel. Marsyas lost when he could not play his flute upside-down. For his hubris he was tied to a tree, flayed, his blood turned into a stream. Marsyas is so named for its unusual retrograde orbit, that which opposes the motion of most solar system objects.”

Marsyas was the teacher and lover of the boy Olympos of Mysia, as stated by the philosopher Philostratus. After Marsyas was flayed alive Apollo gave his body to Olympos for burial.

442721 Kerouac

Discovered 18 October 2009. Published 23 May 2022.

“Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, known as Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) was an American writer and poet. His novels, including ‘On the Road’ and ‘The Subterraneans’, established a new writing style of spontaneous prose. Kerouac is considered a pioneer of the 1950s and 1960s Beat Generation.”

45595 Inman

Discovered 6 February 2000. Published 6 February 2023.

“Frederick John Inman (1934–2007) was an English actor best known for playing Mr. Humphries in the British comedy ‘Are You Being Served?’ (1972–1985), who went on to star in the Australian version of the same sitcom. In 1976 he was named both BBC TV Personality of the Year and ‘TV Times’ readers' Funniest Man on Television.”

John Inman was hugely popular. His mincing character Mr. Humphries gave the UK one of its most enduring catchphrases, “I’m free!” He was also one of the greatest pantomime dames in British theatre.

475080 Jarry

Discovered 26 October 2006. Published 20 December 2021.

“Alfred Jarry (1873–1907) was a French poet, novelist, writer and playwright. His play ‘Ubu Roi’ is often cited as a forerunner of Dada and the Surrealist movement of the 1920s. He also coined the term and philosophical concept of ‘pataphysics’, the science of imaginary solutions, which involves the destruction by the absurd of reason and language.”

Although Jarry is known to have had gay encounters in his younger years he didn’t seem to have had any romantic relationships with anyone, male or female, after that. Many of his works included gay characters and themes.


98 Ianthe

Discovered 18 April 1868. Published before 1903.

“Named for the young girl who became betrothed to Iphis, a Cretan girl who was changed by Isis into a man.”

In the pseudo-science of astrology, Ianthe is the influence behind dissatisfaction with one’s gender role, or with gender identity problems.

52965 Laurencebentz

Discovered 15 October 1998. Published 29 March 2023.

“Laurence Bentz (b.1958) is a French medical doctor, specializing in Public Health & Education Sciences. She contributed to tackling the HIV-AIDS epidemic at its onset, through clinical work, epidemiology, and research to enhance patient adherence to complex treatments. She also developed interventions to support the empowerment of chronically-ill people.

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