"Out-of-this-world" honor for Myron Cope
Friday, June 13, 2008
By Pete Zapadka, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If astronauts one day visit distant asteroid 1993 MC, it might be appropriate for them to plant a Terrible Towel instead of a flag.<:P> That's because the minor planet that orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter officially has been named 7835 Myroncope in honor of legendary Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, who died Feb. 27.
The name, proposed in March by Dr. Eric Mamajek of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., became official late last month after approval by the International Astronomical Union.
"He was such an interesting character; I just thought it would be wonderful if he were memorialized in this way," Dr. Mamajek, a native of Bethel Park, said of Mr. Cope. "He was just sort of the quintessential Pittsburgher."
Dr. Mamajek proposed the idea of naming an asteroid for Mr. Cope to Tim Spahr, who had discovered the object.
"I sent him a biography on Myron, and he was very supportive," Dr. Mamajek said. "There was one that had the temporary designation 1993 MC -- so MC for Myron Cope -- and that was it."
An asteroid bearing one's name is a great honor, veteran astronomer Tom Reiland of Shaler said.
"He's in a lot of good company," said Mr. Reiland, who has minor planet 10320 Reiland named for him. "Elvis Presley has one named after him, the Beatles, Rolling Stones ... there's a whole bunch of people out there. A lot of well-known Pittsburghers ... John Brashear for one, has had an asteroid named after him."
Minor planet 7835 Myroncope is small, probably about 3 miles wide. It's also quite distant, coming only as close as 88 million miles from Earth. Its elliptical orbit can take it as far away as 387 million miles. The small size and distance mean the asteroid cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Now that the asteroid has been named for Mr. Cope, other objects associated with it, like craters on its surface or anything in orbit, also must be named in a theme related to the sportscaster, Dr. Mamajek said. So 7835 Myroncope could be found to have two moons, perhaps to be named Yoi and Double Yoi.
In the vein of a true Steelers fan, Dr. Mamajek said there's no chance of Myroncope colliding with Earth, but "a direct impact at Cleveland Browns Stadium can perhaps not be ruled out."
Pete Zapadka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1857.