May 11 – 11 Parthenope

Main belt asteroid 11 Parthenope was discovered by Annibale de Gasparis on May 11th, 1850.  It is an S-type, and about 153 km across.  Parthenope, in Greek mythology, was one of the Sirens.  She did not take failure well,  drowning herself when she failed to entrap Odysseus with her singing failed to entrap Odysseus.

Odysseus being taunted by Parthenope and her gang.

Odysseus being taunted by Parthenope and her gang.

Today’s visual accompaniment is a detail from an Attic red-figure stamnos (storage jar) of about 500 BC by the Siren Painter (can you guess why?) from the British Museum.  One of the Sirens, presumably Parthenope, is shown hurling herself into the sea.


1871  –  Today sees the discovery of one of the most beautiful sights in the known Universe (my opinion), the unbarred spiral galaxy Messier 104, more commonly known as the sombrero galaxy.  M104 was a late addition to the Messier list, not being officially included until 1923.  This spectacular object is about 28 million light years from us, and measures 50,000 light years in diameter.

Hubble Space Telescope image of M104 (Image credit: NASA)

Hubble Space Telescope image of M104 (Image credit: NASA)

The sombrero galaxy is extremely bright, with a strong x-ray source at its centre, indicating the presence of a black hole.  The black hole was confirmed by spectroscopic results obtained by Hubble.

LOcation Chart for M104. image credit: Free Star Charts (freestarcharts.com).

Location Chart for M104. image credit: Free Star Charts (freestarcharts.com).


1823  –  Birth of John Russell Hind, discoverer of ten asteroids and several variable stars.


1883  –  Asteroid 233 Asterope discovered by Alphonse Borrelly.


1916  –  Death of German physicist and astronomer Karl Schwarzschild, the man whose work gave us the Schwarzschild radius, the size to which an object of a certain mass must shrink for its escape velocity to become equal to that of light (a black hole, for example).  The Schwarzschild radius of the Earth is just under 1 centimetre.


 

 

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