May 27 – Discovery of Asteroid 44 Nysa

Asteroid 44 Nysa is head of the Nysian family of main belt asteroids.  It is a type E asteroid, a group thought to have surfaces of the orthorhombic silicate enstatite, a name I remember well from my days spent hopelessly trying to remember mineral compositions for Mr Hughes’ A-Level Geology class.

Nysa was discovered on May 27th 1857 by our old friend Hermann Goldschmidt, and named not after a person or mythical creature, but a place.  Nysa was a mythological land, linked to Africa , Arabia, or more likely India, where Dionysus was raised by the Hyades.

Image of Dionysus, Nysa’s most famous son. (Image credit: unknown source.)

Because of the rarity of E types, Nysa has been the subject of some scrutiny, and has attracted that attention of both the most famous space-borne telescope (Hubble) and what was until 2016 the biggest ground-based one (the 1,000 foot Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico).  There are suggestions that Nysa might not be a single bosy, but a “contact binary”.


1887  —  Discovery of asteroid 267 Tirza by Auguste Charlois (the first of his 99 asteroid discoveries).

Created: May 2019.