August 29 – Margaret and 74 Galatea

Margaret (or Uranus XXIII) is, so far as I know, the only prograde irregular satellite among Uranus’ collection of, at last count, 27. It was discovered on August 29th, 2003 by Scott S Sheppard and David Jewitt using the 9.3m Subaru telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

A further satellite of Uranus was also confirmed on this day, but as the first sighting of S/2001 U2 (now known as Ferdinand) was an unconfirmed glimpse on August 13th 2001 we shall say no more about it for the next 50 weeks.

Margaret is named after a minor character in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. She is the servant or chamber-maid of Hero, the beautiful daughter of Leonato.

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74 Galatea (discovered August 29th, 1862) was the third of five asteroids to be discovered by the German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (comets were more his thing – he found an impressive 21!).

Galatea is a large, dark, C-type main belt asteroid, and if it seems as though every asteroid I mention fits that description it’s because 75% of all known asteroids are C-types, and the main belt contains 93% of all the numbered minor planets.

Pygmalion and Galatea (by Falconet)

Pygmalion and Galatea (by Falconet)

Two possibilities exist for the choice of the name Galatea. Ovid tells us on the one hand that it was the name of the ivory statue carved by the sculptor Pygmalion, with which he fell in love. But on the other hand he also uses the name to describe a nereid (sea nymph) whose lover, the river spirit Acis was killed by a boulder thrown by Galatea’s jealous suitor, Polyphemus the cyclops. Ovid omits to discuss what kind of aim a cyclops would have.

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