Mr. Sulu can't steer clear of this asteroid

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

An asteroid has been named after George Takei, the actor best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek television series.

As the Associated Press reports, an asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter has been renamed 7307 Takei.

"I am now a heavenly body," Takei, 70, joked Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press. "I found out about it yesterday. ... I was blown away. It came out of the clear, blue sky - just like an asteroid."

We're not sure what apocalyptic scenario Mr. Takei is referring to there (perhaps a sneak preview of a plot arc on the television show Heroes, in which he has a recurring role), but it must indeed be exciting to find out your name has been commemorated by a scientific institution like the International Astronomical Union's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (4659 Roddenberry) and fellow cast-member Nichelle Nichols (68410 Nichols) have already had asteroids named after them, as have such entertainers as Jimmy Page and Dudley Moore.

But as the AP reports, there are a heck of a lot more asteroids out there to be named: Some 150,000 of them, with more being discovered every day. A list of the ones the IAU has already named is here, but it only goes up until 2006.

Our own Stephen Strauss wrote an excellent column last year on the somewhat tangled process of naming asteroids, and it's a subject he should know well. There is already a 16596 Stevenstrauss asteroid, complete with an accidental misspelling of his name.

A complete list of asteroids named after Canadians is here.