"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
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 email@example.com or 412-263-1857.
First published on June 13, 2008 at 12:00 am