April 20 – 532 Herculina

Asteroid 532 Herculina was discovered this very day in 1904 by Max Wolf, born 21/06/1867 in Heidelberg, studied at Heidelberg, Chair of Astronomy at Heidelberg, died 03/10/1932…  Can you guess where?

Wolf discovered a phenomenal 248 asteroids, presumably in the time he saved by not bothering to leave Heidelberg.  Herculina was his 9th of 1904, a year in which he was finding the critters at about one every three weeks.

Heidelberg Resident, Max Wolf.
Heidelberg Resident, Max Wolf.

With a diameter of 225 km, Herculina is one of the larger main belt asteroids, probably in the top 20.  It has a nicely elliptical orbit which takes it from 2.3 to 3.26 AU from the Sun.

For a while Herculina was suspected to have a “moon”, following observations made in the 1970′s, but further studies have failed to find it.  And that’s also pretty much the story of my attempt to find the location from whence was plucked the name.  Herculina doesn’t appear to be anyone or anywhere in particular.  Wolf’s previous asteroid, 531 Zerlina, is a character from Don Giovanni, and his next one, 539 Pamina, is from The Magic Flute.  But Herculina is a mystery.

1903  –  Discovery of asteroid 508 Princetonia.