Leonard Nimoy Is Forever Connected To Science Thanks To An Asteroid

It's always frightening to think about just how small and insignificant we are, in an intergalactic sense. This big beautiful Earth of ours, per Space.com, is quite the unit, boasting a mass of about 6.6 sextilion tons (or 5.9722 x 1024 kilograms). In the vastness of space, though, it's just another ball of rock and gas floating around in an unimaginably large void.

Among the various planets and stars that make up the solar system (and beyond), there are other bodies to be concerned about: asteroids, among them. As NASA reports, asteroids and comets have been monitored by the NASA Near-Earth Object Program Office since 1998, which seeks to identify the movement patterns and positions of such objects to keep track of any potential Earth-approachers.

It's a logical and practical endeavor (for the study of something potentially terrifying), just the sort of thing that veteran spacefarer Spock of "Star Trek" fame would heartily approve of. The human/Vulcan science officer of the Enterprise was first ably played by the iconic Leonard Nimoy. The actor was suitably honored by having an asteroid named after him.

Leonard Nimoy's legacy as Spock

Leonard Nimoy is one of the most beloved veterans of the "Star Trek" universe. Per Britannica, his acting career began to gather steam in the 1950s and '60s, when he made his name as a guest actor in a variety of television shows. He appeared in the likes of "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "Dragnet," and "Rawhide," but it was a 1964 show called "The Lieutenant" that would ultimately lead Nimoy to immortality.

"The Lieutenant," Britannica goes on, was the brainchild of one Gene Roddenberry. He, as any Trekkie worth their salt will attest, was the man behind "Star Trek," the fruits of which were just beginning to sprout in Roddenberry's mind at the time. For him, Nimoy soon proved to be an excellent choice for the role of the brilliant Spock, and so perhaps one of the best casting decisions in television history was made.

Nimoy is not the only actor to portray the character, but he certainly became defined by many for doing so. He also retained a connection to Spock, as he told the Star Trek website in 2013 following his appearance in "Star Trek Into Darkness." "I am definitely invested in what happens to the future of the Spock character, how it's played and how it's portrayed," Nimoy said. "I think a very good job is being done with that and I'm very proud of that." It's a fitting tribute to the man, then, that an asteroid now bears his name.

The asteroid named 4864 Nimoy

As Space.com reports, Nimoy's most famous character was first honored in this way in 1985. That year, astronomer James Gibson, who had named a cat Mr. Spock because of its distinctive ears, paid tribute to the kitty companion (and so to Nimoy) by dubbing an asteroid 2309 Mr. Spock. Three years later, according to the outlet, the European Southern Observatory located another asteroid. This one would be more directly named after the actor following his sad death in 2015.

According to Universe Today, 4864 Nimoy is found within the asteroid belt, in the region of Mars/Jupiter. Its orbit takes almost four years, and it's rather moderately sized as far as asteroids go, at 10 km — about 6 miles — across. The name was assigned June 2, 2015; Nimoy died February 27 of that year.

As NASA states, the sizes of asteroids vary to an enormous degree. The smallest can measure less than 10 meters (33 feet), the largest at about 329 miles in diameter. There are reportedly more than 1.1 million known asteroids, and it's incredibly touching that one of them sports the name of the star. Spock, and Nimoy himself, surely appreciate the honor.