Asteroid near Mars named after US gay rights activist

Frank Kameny, an astronomer who spearheaded the gay rights movement in the 1960s, will have his name live on in space

Asteroid near Mars named after US gay rights activist
11 July 2012

An asteroid between Mars and Jupiter has been named after a groundbreaking US gay rights activist.

Frank Kameny, who died last October, was fired from his position as an astronomer for the US Army in 1957 because he was gay.

However, he challenged his dismissal in the Supreme Court and spearheaded the first LGBT rights protests outside the White House, the Pentagon and in Philadelphia in the 1960s.

Now the astronomy world has honored the pioneering activist by re-naming Minor Planet 40463 after him.

Frankkameny is located in the asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. It was first discovered in 1999 and is can be seen using a telescope.

Astronomer Gary Billings and astronomical technician Richard ‘Doc’ Kinne wrote the public citation which led to the asteroid being given Kameny’s name.

After reading the campaigner’s obituary, Billings wrote to Kinne, who said he was ‘floored’ by the idea, reported The Washington Post.

‘He was a man I would have admired,’ Billings wrote.

‘Add that to the fact that I have many friends and acquaintances who are members of the LGBT community, and I felt it was something I wanted to do to honor Dr Kameny — and my friends.’

People who discover asteroids have 10 years to suggest a name once the discovery is verified, after which it will be reviewed by a 15-member international panel.

‘He was an astronomer,’ Kinne said. ‘The culture of the time took that away from him, and now he’s getting it back. He would have liked that.’

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