February 04 – Asteroid 52 Europa

February 4th 1858  marks the discovery, by Hermann Goldschmidt, of asteroid 52 Europa.  Europa is approximately 315km in diameter, making it the sixth largest asteroid, and is named after a mythical Phoenician woman with whom Zeus had a fling (for some reason he had decided that taking the form of a white bull was a good idea for this particular wooing, and it worked).  Europa, believe it or not, gave her name to Europe.

"The Abduction of Europa" (Rembrandt)

“The Abduction of Europa” (Rembrandt)

The asteroid Europa is the second largest of the C-type asteroids.  C-types are the most common asteroids, accounting for about three quarters of all those known.  They are carbonaceous, and difficult to spot because of their dark colour.  Spectrographic studies of this particular one in the 1990s by the University of Texas have found evidence of the presence of olivines and pyroxenes.

1960   ⇒   Launch of Discoverer 9.  There isn’t much to say about this one, as it failed to reach orbit following a premature 1st stage cut-off.  It had been intended as a low resolution photo surveillance satellite, and was launched from Vandeburg Air Force Base by the USAF.  The aim was to replace the U2 spyplanes and gather photographic evidence of how quickly the Soviet Union was producing ballistic missiles and long-range bombers.

1961   ⇒   Launch of Sputnik 7.  Possibly the first Soviet attempt to launch a probe to Venus, or then again possibly just a tester for Sputnik 8.  Either way, Sputnik 7 (14,290 lb) was launched by an A2e launch vehicle (the “A” refers to the core Vostok launch vehicle, with “2″  denoting an extra 2-engined third stage and “e” meaning it carried an escape capsule) and came quickly back down from orbit on Feb 25.

1888   ⇒   Main belt asteroid 272 Antonia discovered by Auguste Charlois.

1906   ⇒   Birth of Clyde Tombaugh, American astronomer, discoverer of Pluto.


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