The asteroid 4864 Nimoy was recently named after Leonard Nimoy. It was discovered on September 2, 1988 so it went nearly 27 years without a name. Why was this asteroid chosen to be named after him? Were they trying to think of a name for it and chose to name it for Leonard Nimoy, or were they looking for an asteroid to name after him and chose that one?


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I'm not entirely sure, but I would guess that it's simply because the discoverer suggested it. After a few steps in the process of characterizing an asteroid's orbit, the discoverer gets to suggest a name (within reason) to a committee. The full guidelines are available at the relevant IAU webpage. (It's longer than is worth reproducing here.)

Note that there are plenty of "celebrity" asteroids, drawn from a wide range of human endeavours: Adamsmith, Balzac, Beethoven, Megryan, etc. If anything, I'm surprised that an asteroid wasn't named Nimoy sooner. There's already a Mr. Spock!

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    $\begingroup$ As a purely trivial note, asteroid "2309 Mr. Spock" was originally named for astronomer James Gibson's pet cat, who in turn was named after the Star Trek character. futilitycloset.com/2005/06/22/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 20:10

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