Iain M. Banks gets asteroid named after him

Iain M. Banks has joined a select group of science fiction creators who've received the ultimate tribute, of having a celestial body named after him. The asteroid named Iainbanks is orbiting the sun in the main asteroid belt, every 3.94 years.

J.L. Galache of the Minor Planet Center explains:

When I heard of [Banks]' sickness I immediately asked myself what I could do for Mr Banks, and the answer was obvious: Give him an asteroid!

The Minor Planet Center only has the authority to designate new asteroid discoveries (e.g., ’1971 TD1′) and assign numbers to those whose orbits are of a high enough accuracy (e.g., ’5099′), but names for numbered asteroids must be submitted to, and approved by, the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the IAU (International Astronomical Union). With the help of Dr Gareth Williams, the MPC’s representative on the CSBN, we submitted a request to name an asteroid after Iain Banks with the hope that it would be approved soon enough for Mr Banks to enjoy it. Sadly, that has not been possible. Nevertheless, I am here to announce that on June 23rd, 2013, asteroid (5099) was officially named Iainbanks by the IAU, and will be referred to as such for as long as Earth Culture may endure.

Galache adds that since the Culture, Banks' highly advanced fictional society, hollows out asteroids and uses them as starships, Banks probably would have been amused to have his own rock. [via NPR]