May 31 – Discovery of asteroid 892 Seeligeria

A lesson in how to crowbar a name into an asteroid, 892 Seeligeria was discovered on May 31st, 1918, by Max Wolf, and named after German astronomer Hugo Hans Ritter von Seeliger.

Hugo von Seeliger.

Seeligeria is in the main asteroid belt, is approximately 38 km (23.6 miles) in diameter and has a year lasting almost 6 Earth years.  On average it is about 3.2 AU from the Sun, although it’s elliptical orbit means it can be as close as 2.9 AU, and as far away as 3.5 AU.

Seeligeria is a member of the Alauda family of more than 1,200 known carbonaceous asteroids, containing a variety of interesting names, including  3325 TARDIS, which hardly needs an introduction, likewise the great violonist 52344 Yehudimenuhin and the alma mater of Anton Checkov and Mikhail Gorbachev, 6355 Univermoscow.

Von Seeliger (1849 – 1924), was a prominent astronomer in his day, and also professor of astronomy at the University of Munich, where one of his PhD students was Karl Schwartzschild, who gave us the Schwartzschild radius (I’m not going to try to define this here, so I have included a rare thing in these blogs: a hyperlink).


1918: Asteroid 893 Leopoldina.  It was not unusual for the likes of Max Wolf to discover two asteroids in a day, and today is one of those days.  893 Leopoldina is another main belt asteroid, also 38 km in diameter, but not a member of the Alauda family.  Leopoldina is named in honour of the Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, in Halle, Germany.

1975: The European Space Agency is formed.

2008: Launch of space shuttle mission STS-124 to the International Space Station.  The crew of seven took with them a substantial part of the Japanese Experiment Module (the biggest single ISS module), a Buzz Lightyear figure, and spare parts for a malfunctioning toilet.  Spaceflight isn’t all glamour.