December 01 – Asteroid 157 Dejanira

At 10km wide, and with an absolute magnitude of +10.6 and a rotation period of 15.82 hours, 157 Dejanira is a fairly ordinary main belt asteroid discovered by Alphonse Borelly on December 1st 1875. It has since become the head of a family of similarly located asteroids.

Dejanira is named for the mythological Greek princess Deianira, daughter of the king of Calydon.  Supposedly a great beauty, she caught the eye of both the hero Herakles and the deity Achelous, god of the river Acheloos. Herakles won, of course, and took Deianira as his wife. This turned out to be one of his less inspired decisions, as is explained in The Women of Trachis by Sophocles. Early in their relationship,  Herakles had saved Deianira from being carried off by a centaur called Nessus, by killing him with an arrow. Somehow the dying Nessus persuaded Deianira that his blood was a love potion.  Deianira kept some, and when she later found out that Herakles was about to embark on an amorous adventure with a captive princess,  she dyed a robe with it and sent it to her husband as a gift, forgetting that his own arrows were dipped in the blood of a hydra, and had therefore made Nessus’ blood a powerful poison.

Black Figure Hydria (water carrier) showing Heracles, Deianira and Nessus (Louvre, Paris).

Black Figure Hydria (water carrier) showing Heracles, Deianira and Nessus (Louvre, Paris).

I’d like to say here that “hilarity ensues and they all lived happily ever after”, but obviously it didn’t, and they don’t.  Read The Women of Trachis to depress yourself further.


1894 ~ Discovery of main belt asteroid 396 Aeolia (named after an area of Asia Minor) by Auguste Charlois.


1989 ~ I think I need to look up the Russian for International Astrophysical Observatory , because the acronym is GRANAT, and I can’t get past the “G”. Anyhoo, it was launched on December 1st 1989 by the Soviet Union, in collaboration with Bulgaria, France and Denmark. Able to observe at wavelengths From X- to gamma ray, Granat was operational for nine years, and discovered twenty new X-ray sources. Granat was similar in design to the older Astron observatory, which had itself been based around the Venera design.

Granat, perched on a Proton launch vehicle, shortly before liftoff. (Image: NASA)

Granat, perched on a Proton launch vehicle, shortly before liftoff. (Image: NASA)


 

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