Astronomers name asteroid in Garcia's honor

By Amy Fredette

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Jerry Garcia's "long strange trip" may have ended on Earth when the Grateful Dead leader died Aug. 9, but his memory soared to new heights after two Tucson astronomers honored him with an asteroid bearing his name.

The asteroid was discovered in 1985 by UA planetary sciences Professor Tom Gehrels, but he allowed Deadhead astronomers Ed Olszewski, of the UA's Steward Observatory, and Simon Radford, of the Radio Astronomy Observatory, to name the celestial body "Garcia."

Garcia, the Grateful Dead's lead guitarist and vocalist, died of heart failure on Aug. 9. He was 53.

Gehrels said he conceded to Olszewski and Radford's request to name the asteroid because "it was a good idea."

"This was a man who has done a lot of good work," Gehrels said. "He has made a lot of people happy (with his music) and he continues to do so."

Gehrels said that although he has never been to a Grateful Dead concert because "they were too much of a hassle to get in and out of," he does enjoy their music.

Olszewski, on the other hand, said he has been a fan of Garcia's since 1971 and that he has been to 20 Grateful Dead shows. He said Garcia's musical merit will outweigh the honor he and Radford have bestowed upon their "favorite guitarist."

"His music will immortalize him more," Olszewski said. "Our intention was always that this was a tiny gift we could give back."

The "Garcia" asteroid, which is 100 miles across, orbits between Jupiter and Mars and can be viewed only with a high-powered telescope. The name of the asteroid was confirmed Nov. 7 by the International Astronomical Union, which houses the collection of celestial names.

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