September 10 – 54 Alexandra

Asteroid 54 Alexandra was the first to be named after a man (sort of – they changed it from Alexander but it’s pretty close). This C-type asteroid was discovered on September 10th 1858 by Hermann Goldschmidt.  Occultation observations have given a roughly oval shape of about 160 km long and 135 km wide, and light curve data predicts a rotation period of just over 18 hours. Alexandra used to be the head of a family of similar bodies, but the name is no longer used.

Alexander von Humboldt

Alexander von Humboldt

Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was a Prussian explorer of great reknown. He spent a good deal of his time studying the geography, flora and fauna of Latin America (and was among the first to suggest it might have been part of the same landmass as Africa).  he also has an impressive collection of plants, animals, geographical features, roads, parks, towns and counties named after him.  And I bet you thought he was just a penguin.

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Asteroid 55 Pandora was discovered today in 1858 by American astronomer and priest George Mary Searle.  Pandora is a large, bright E-type asteroid.  The E-types are a group of enstatite- bearing asteroids, usually quite small, (Pandora is one of the exceptions) all thought to originate from a much larger body, now broken up.  Searle only discovered one asteroid, but with six galaxies under his belt I suppose he was happy enough.

Pandora (East façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre palace, Paris.) Image: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Pandora (East façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre palace, Paris.) Image: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Pandora (above) was supposedly, according to Greek mythology, the first human woman, created on the orders of Zeus.  We all think we know about Pandora, of course, and we are all wrong.  A mis-translation of the Greek word pithos (“jar”) into pixos (“box”) has made ignoramuses (not ignorami) of us all.

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. . . asteroid 231 Vindobona was discovered in 1882.  It’s a dark main-belter, discovered by our most regular contributor to the list, Johann Palissa, and given the Gaulish name for Vienna (literally “white bottom”).

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