1892 – Asteroid 326 Tamara, discovered March 19 1892 by Johann Palisa. It is a C-type asteroid of about 93 km wide in the main belt, named after Tamar the Great, Queen of Georgia.
1892 – Asteroid 332 Siri was also discovered on March 19th 1892, but by Max Wolf at Heidelberg. It’s a fairly small object, about 40km wide. The origin of the name is not known, and I haven’t been able to find any likely candidates. Part of the problem, of course, is that, as with the aforementioned Tamara, and the next on this page, Isara, the name could have been altered to fit some perceived idea of what an asteroid’s name should sound like.
1893 – Asteroid 364 Isara was discovered by Auguste Charlois. It is a member of the large Flora family of S-type asteroids, which may be parents of the L chondrite meteorites. The Isère river, from which this asteroid derives its name, flows from the Alps and joins the Rhone near Valence in southern France.
1919 – Karl Wilhelm Reinmuth discovers asteroid 911 Agamemnon, a “Greek camp” Jupiter Trojan of approximately 83 km radius (making it probably the second biggest).
March 17th 1930: astronaut Colonel James Benson Irwin, USAF, born in Pittsburgh PA.
In 1971 Irwin, Apollo 15 lunar module pilot, became the eighth man to walk on the Moon, spending over 18 hours on the surface. He also, on his return, became one of the first people to be grounded, quite literally, for smuggling postage stamps into space.
1852 – Asteroid 16 Psychewasdiscovered on March 17th 1852 by Annibale de Gasparis. Psyche is a large asteroid, about 200 km in diameter, accounting for about 1% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. It’s an M-type asteroid, probably mostly nickel and iron.
Psyche is named for a mythological princess, who caught the eye of the god Cupid. The story is told by Lucius Apuleius in The Golden Ass.
In early 2017 NASA announced plans to send a probe to Psyche in 2023, as part of their Discovery Program, the main reason being that, as a metallic asteroid, it represents one of the few classes of objects in our neighbourhood that haven’t yet been visited.
1899 – Saturn’s moon Phoebediscovered by American astronomer W H Pickering. It, too, is about 200 km in diameter, and may be a captured centaur from the Kuiper belt. We have some spectacular photographs of Phoebe following the visit of the Cassini spacecraft in 2004.
1781 – Messier 85, a lenticular (elliptical if you prefer) galaxy, was discovered on this day in 1781 by Pierre Méchain. It can be found in the constellation Coma Berenices (named after the Egyptian queen Berenice II) and is about 60 million light years away, making it the northernmost galaxy in the Virgo Cluster, a collection of somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 galaxies, on the periphery of which is our own local group.
There are hundreds of beautiful photographs of all manner of galaxies on the internet, but M85 is very under-represented by legal entities with relaxed media sharing policies, hence the above.
1861 – Asteroid 64 Angelina discovered from Marseilles by Ernst Tempel. Angelina is an E-type (containing enstatite) with a very high albedo (0.28) compared to many other asteroids. It is named after an astronomical station operated by the Hungarian astronomer Franz Xaver von Zach. For discovering Angelina (and 65 Cybele) Tempel received the ‘Lalande Prize’ from the French Académie des sciences.
1892 – M-type (mainly metallic) main belt asteroid 325 Heidelberga was discovered today by Max Wolf. If you’ve been following these pages closely the choice of name should come as no surprise, being the location of most, if not all, of Wolf’s discoveries. Heidelberga is reasonably large, at approximately 75 km in diameter. Fuller details of Heidelberga’s physical and orbital characteristics can be found in the NASA JPL Small-Body Database browser.
1904 – Birth of George Gamow, cosmologist, and early champion of the Big Bang theory.
1923 – Birthday of Patrick Moore, amateur astronomer extraordinaire.
This post originally appeared in 2015, and was slightly updated in 2017.