November 11 – Asteroid 179 Klytaemnestra

Today in 1877, Canadian-American astronomer James Craig Watson discovered his final asteroid, the large main belt member 179 Klytaemnestra. This stony S-type asteroid is about 75 km across, and has a light curve giving it a rotation period of 11.13 hours, varying in by magnitude by 0.55.

A light curve is pretty much exactly what you might think.  It’s a curve showing variations in brightness of the target object.  Variations in the light intensity recorded can be used to infer how long it is taking the asteroid to rotate.  The same method can be used to predict the shape of the asteroid.

The Murder of Agamemnon, by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin. Louvre, Paris.

The Murder of Agamemnon, by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin. Louvre, Paris.

As was fairly normal in the early days of asteroid naming, this one is a mythological Greek reference.  The Spartan princess Clytemnestra was the wife of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, and became infamous by killing both her husband and the Trojan princess Cassandra, whom he had chosen as a reward for his part in the victory over Troy.

 1875    Vesto Melvin Slipher, the American astronomer responsible for providing the first proof of universal expansion, was born today in Mulberry, Indianna. Slipper lived to the grand old age of 93, and spent his entire working life at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. His brother, Earl, was also an astronomer, specialising in the study of Mars.

1966  ⇒  Launch of the Gemini XII spacecraft from Cape Canaveral.  The two-man crew were Jim Lovell and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.  The name Buzz, apparently, came from the inability of one of his sisters to pronounce the word “brother”. The Gemini XII mission lasted for 3 days, 22 hours and 34 minutes, allowing the craft to make 59 orbits of the Earth, and giving Aldrin time to pop outside for three EVAs (one a day). This was the final manned Gemini flight; the craft can currently be seen at the Alder Planetarium, Chicago.

1982  ⇒  Launch of the fifth NASA shuttle mission, STS-5, using shuttle Columbia.  The four-man crew was the first to undertake an “operational” shuttle mission, by deploying two commercial satellites.



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