March 01 – Asteroids-R-Us

1854  –  28 Bellona and 29 Amphitrite

Asteroid 28 Bellona was discovered by Robert Luther on March 1st 1854, three weeks before the start of the Crimean War, so the name was chosen to be topical (Bellona was a Roman goddess of war).   Bellona is a large S-type asteroid of somewhere between 110 and 120km across.

An even larger S-type asteroid, at over 200km wide, is 29 Amphitrite, discovered on the same day, several hundred miles from Luther in Regent’s Park, London, by another German astronomer, Albert Marth.  Marth was working at the time for George Bishop, the owner of a private observatory in the park.  Bishop chose the name.  Amphitrite was Marth’s only asteroid, but John Russell Hind, who we meet in these pages every so often, used Bishop’s 7″ refractor to greater effect to discover ten asteroids between 1847 and 1854.  Unfortunately the observatory is no longer in Regent’s Park; the telescope was moved to his son’s residence in Twickenham after Bishop’s death, and then donated to an Italian Observatory.

In ancient Greek mythology, Amphitrite was a Nereid, and wife of Poseidon.

1878  –  185 Eunike

185 Eunike is a dark, large, carbonaceous main-belt asteroid, approximately 157 kilometres in diameter. It was discovered on March 1st, 1878 by Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters, and named, in a politically motivated fashion after yet another Nereid, Eunike, whose name means ‘happy victory’.  This is a reference to the Treaty of San Stefano, signed on March 3rd 1878 between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire at the end of the Russo-Turkish War. The treaty led to the creation of an autonomous Bulgaria, became the central point of Bulgarian foreign policy, lasting until 1944, and led to the Second Balkan War and Bulgaria’s entry into World War I.

1891  –  306 Unitas

306 Unitas is another main belt asteroid, discovered by Elia Millosevich on March 1st, 1891. in Rome, and named by the director of the Modena Observatory in honor of the Italian astronomer Angelo Secchi.  It is classified as an S-type asteroid.  Unitas has a similar orbit to the Vesta family, but has been found to be unrelated to them.

1894  –  385 Ilmatar and 386 Siegena

385 Ilmatar is a large main belt asteroid discovered by Max Wolf on this day in 1894.  Ilmatar is the virgin spirit of the air in Finnish mythology.

Ilmatar (R W Ekman)
Ilmatar (R W Ekman)

386 Siegena is another large, C-type asteroid.  It, too, was discovered by Max Wolf in 1894.  It is named after the city of Siegen in Germany.