April 10 – 216 Kleopatra

Asteroid 216 Kleopatra was discovered on April 10th 1880 by Johann Palisa.  It’s a fairly large asteroid, but also an unusually shaped one, resembling the type of bone that cartoon dogs are usually shown eating.  The latest figures put it at about 217 km wide if looked at side-on.  It is also unusual in having two small moons, now known as Alexhelios and Cleoselene.

Cleopatra and Caesar (Jean-Leon-Gerome).

Cleopatra and Caesar (Jean-Leon-Gerome).

There are no prizes today for guessing where the name of this asteroid comes from.  Cleopatra VII was almost the last pharaoh of Egypt.  Her eldest son, Ptolomy XV Philopator Philometer Caesar (possibly the only son of Julius Caesar) did actually rule on his own for almost two weeks after his mother’s death, but that doesn’t really count as an active reign.

Cleopatra had four children; the aforementioned Ptolemy XV, Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene, and Ptolemy XVI Philadelphus.  Children numbers two, three and four were fathered by Marc Antony, and you will notice that the names of the middle two have been morphed into those of 216 Kleopatra’s moons.

The children of Cleopatra and Marc Antony?

The children of Cleopatra and Marc Antony?

Today’s second photograph is from the Cairo Museum, and is thought to represent Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene.  The faces haven’t lasted well, and the Ptolemaic Egyptians weren’t great at putting sticky barcoded identification labels under their sculptures, but egyptologists have noticed representations of the Sun (Helios) and Moon (Selene) above their heads, and the date is about right, so it’s possible.

After the death of their parents, the three children of Marc Antony were taken to Rome by the emperor Octavian.  The boys disappear without trace, but Cleopatra Selene does quite well for herself, becoming Queen of Mauretania, in Africa (corresponding roughly to the Mediterranean coast of Morocco).

Also today, asteroid 120 Lachesis was discovered on April 10th 1872 by French astronomer Alphonse Borelly. It is a main belt “C type” asteroid of about 174 km (108 miles) diameter, and is one of the small band of asteroids to have been discovered twice, independently, on successive days. The unlucky astronomer getting no cigar this time is our old friend C H F Peters.

Lachesis was one of the three Fates of Greek mythology. Her role was to decide how long a person was going to live, and determine their lot in life. It’s good to have a hobby, isn’t it?




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s