The Beatles received an interesting honor on this date 25 years ago, as each member—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—received the honor of having four newly discovered asteroids named after them. It's not a rare honor—as Mental Floss explains, there are literally hundreds of asteroids and "minor planets" in our galaxy, and although they don't necessarily need to be named after anything, we're a sentimental species. That's how individuals such as The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Phil Spector ended up with astronomical objects named after them.
Here are a few interesting examples:
Michael Jackson's Moon Crater
Naming things in space goes beyond every object floating around the galaxy. Sometimes, especially with bodies that are familiar to astronomers, we begin to name the features on those bodies as well. Nothing is more familiar than our own moon. The moon is noted for its craters, the result of having no wind or other eroding factors to rub them out of existence. Not many celebrities have had the honor of getting a crater named after them, but Michael Jackson is the most obvious candidate for the honor. First of all, one of the performer's most famous stage moves was the moonwalk, a eye-boggling move where he seems to walk forward while moving backward. Another good reason: Jackson actually owned a 1,200 acre plot of land on the surface of the moon nearby to where the Michael Joseph Jackson crater exists. He famously paid nearly $30 an acre for the land to The Lunar Republic Society with plans for later development. Seriously.
Frank Zappa's minor planet
As we suggested earlier, there are hundreds-upon-hundreds of celestial objects named after musicians and other celebrities. Unfortunately astronomers aren't usually too creative when they name these things...if you want to name a minor planet after Peter Gabriel, you do so as simply as possible...by naming it Petergabriel, not "Shock The Monkey Rock." That's why we opted for the minor planet named after Frank Zappa when choosing our favorite. In this instance, Slovakian astronomer Ladislav Brožek had the decency to name the object Zappafrank instead of Frankzappa when it was discovered during 1980. No way would the legendary guitarist want anything that straightforward.
Phil Spector's Asteroid
Around the time that John Broughton discovered asteroid 18132 (2000), it probably seemed like a good idea to name one of the rocks after iconic producer Phil Spector. He was as important as anyone in the creation of the '60s pop sound and his name even suggests an astral luminosity (unfortunately they don't routinely name stars after celebrities). Less than three years after the honor was bestowed however, actress Lana Clarkson was found dead in Spector's mansion, having been shot. The producer would be convicted in 2007 but it was far from the first time that he had displayed bizarre behavior. It's tough to blame Broughton for naming the asteroid after Spector however...the New Zealand astronomer is noted for how many he's discovered, and we're sure he's running out of names.
The Craters of Mercury
Astronomers have come up with a handy system for naming craters on Mercury, the planet closest to our sun. They've simply decided when naming the craters to stick to a theme of "artists": sculptors, painters, playwrights, authors and the like. In other words, we're talking about fine art here, so you won't be seeing any craters named Britney Spears anytime soon. Think of any composer however, from Bach to Wagner, and odds are they have a piece of Mercury named after them. One exception: John Lennon is the only "popular" musicians with a crater named in his honor on the planet.