The late Iain M. Banks’ name will live on, not just on our bookshelves but in the universe.
Banks announced that he had cancer earlier this year and that his next novel would be his last. Banks passed away earlier this summer, leaving behind a legacy of great science-fiction novels and fans across the globe.
One of those fans is Dr. Jose Luis Galache, an astronomer at the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center (MPC) in Cambridge, Mass. Galache met Banks at a book signing a few years ago and when he heard the news of Banks’ cancer and passing, he wanted to do something to honor the writer.
“When I heard of his sickness I immediately asked myself what I could do for Mr Banks,” Galache wrote on the MPC blog, “and the answer was obvious: Give him an asteroid!”
Galache set about requesting a name change for an asteroid discovered in 1985 in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which he wanted to rename “Iainbanks.” Naming an asteroid after Banks — instead of, say, a crater on the moon — is particularly fitting, because Banks’ Culture series of sci-fi novels often featured hollowed-out asteroids called “Rocks” used for living quarters and faster-than-light travel.
“I’d like to think Mr Banks would have been amused to have his own rock,” wrote Galache.
Galache’s hope was to get the asteroid’s name change approved while Banks was still alive, so he could enjoy the honor. Unfortunately, the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature, which is responsible for the names of asteroids, didn’t approve the request until June 23, two weeks after Banks passed away.