Bruce Springsteen is a rock star for the ages. His hits, too numerous to list, define the genre. This month Springsteen lands in Auckland to play to thousands at Mt Smart Stadium.

Meanwhile, Dancing in the dark, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter is an asteroid, named for the legendary singer. Discovered and named by Dr Ian Griffin, using the Edith Winstone Blackwell Zeiss telescope, a 50-cm Cassegrain telescope at Auckland Stardome Observatory and Planetarium. The asteroid had to be tracked for a number of nights in September 1999 before receiving a designated number first – 23990. It can only be officially named when its orbit has been defined accurately.

An asteroid is a small, rocky body that orbits the Sun – a Spirit in the Sky, you might say. They are also called ‘minor planets’, particularly the asteroids that orbit the inner Solar System between Mars and Jupiter, as asteroid ‘Springsteen’ does.

To name an astronomical object, an application must be submitted to the International Astronomical Union by the discoverer. There are plenty of rules and guidelines for naming an astronomical object – it should only be one word, pronounceable, non-offensive, not identical or similar to another minor planet or planetary satellite, pet names are discouraged, as are commercial names. Also, the names of individuals or events known for political or military activities are inappropriate until 100 years after the death of the person, or the event date.

Dr Griffin, who was the CEO at Stardome at the time, named the comet for Springsteen because he was a fan. Griffin told the NZ Herald in 2001 “I’ve enjoyed listening to Springsteen’s music for many years, and it’s in no sense anything other than a tribute to someone whose music I enjoy.”

Dr Griffin has discovered other asteroids, including two named ‘Auckland’ and ‘Maungakiekie’ for the respective locations.

Asteroid ‘Springsteen’ isn’t visible to the naked-eye, so they only way you’ll see any sort of Springsteen is with a ticket to his concert at the end of the month.