The Truth About The Asteroid Named After Mister Rogers

Fred Rogers is known far and wide as Mister Rogers. He was the creator and host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhoodthe beloved, long-running children's television program that made history with its soft-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent approach that treated children like human beings whose feelings and thoughts are valid and important. Rogers' hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania contains many memorials, including the somewhat infamous statue Roadside America refers to as the "lumpy Mr. Rogers statue."  There has been another, literally out-of-this-world, honor, bestowed shortly after Rogers' death in 2003. Scientists renamed an asteroid, first discovered in 1993 and previously known as No. 26858. Per NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, the celestial body is now officially known as 26858 Misterrogers.

As reported by  E! Online, the asteroid's new identity came about when John G. Radzilowicz, director of the Henry Buhl Jr. Planetarium & Observatory at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, submitted the nomination on the day Fred Rogers died, February 27, 2003. It turns out that Rogers had a relationship with the Buhl Planetarium; he produced a multimedia show, "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" in 2000, and according to the Carnegie Science Center website, that show continues to run to this day. Rogers had a soft spot for astronomy, noting in an interview at time of the planetarium show's release that he "never lost my fascination with the sky." 

He's revolving around all the neighborhoods now

Radzilowicz explained to E! Online that most asteroids are named after the scientists who discover them. When an especially prolific astronomer discovers multiple asteroids, the surplus ones are free to be named after anyone whose nomination is approved by the International Astronomical Union. This is a separate situation from companies that allow people to purchase naming rights for stars; Radzilowicz calls them "the astronomical equivalent of a pet rock." Unlike the pet rock asteroids, the name 26858 Misterrogers is recognized as official and legally binding. The NASA site pays further tribute to the astroid's namesake by noting, "Fred McFeely Rogers (1928-2003) was a passionate advocate for children who taught that everyone is unique and deserving of love and respect 'just the way you are.' For more than 30 years he used his public television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as a vehicle of service to the youngest members of the human family."

Unfortunately, although Asteroid Misterrogers is too small to be seen by anything but the most powerful telescopes, we can all still take comfort in the fact that when we look up at the night sky, just as Fred Rogers loved to do, Misterrogers is really there. In the words of Rogers' longtime friend and coworker David Newell, who played Speedy Delivery's Mr. McFeely on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, "Here's Mister Rogers revolving around all the neighborhoods now."