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Mercury now orbits between Mars and Jupiter, fun with liquid nitrogen, 3D printing an asteroid


By Hamish Johnston

He may have taken the name of a planet, but the late rock star Freddie Mercury now has an asteroid named after him. 17473 Freddiemercury, is about 3.4 km in diameter and resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The designation was made by the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union and announced on Sunday by Mercury’s former Queen band mate and astrophysicist Brian May. In the above video, May gives some background to the naming, which was done to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Mercury’s birth. And if you watch to the end, you will see a clip of 17473 Freddiemercury streaking across the sky with Queen rocking in the background.

Elsewhere in asteroid news, NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft has just begun its journey to Bennu, where it will scoop up a sample of the asteroid and return it to Earth. To do so, the spacecraft will come within 4 m of the asteroid’s surface. If you would like to know what Bennu looks like up close, you can make a model of the asteroid using these 3D printer plans from NASA. If you don’t have a 3D printer, you can still view a 3D model of Bennu by clicking on “3D model viewer”.



The British medical scientist, author and TV personality Robert Winston turned his hand to a bit of physics this week on James Corden’s Late, Late Show. After treating the audience to two spectacular chemistry demonstrations, he wowed them with what happens when you seal a plastic bottle containing liquid nitrogen and place it under several thousand ping pong balls. You can watch what happened next in the above video.

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