July 31 – Discovery of Asteroids 122 Gerda and 123 Brunhild (1872)

Asteroid 122 Gerda was discovered by C H F Peters on July 31st 1872, and named after the wife of the Norse God Freya. It is an S-type main belt asteroid of about 81km diameter, and is a member of the Hecuba family of asteroids. Gerda takes 2112 days to orbit the Sun at 16 km/s.

Skírnir Persuades Gerðr to Follow Him. Karl Ehrenberg (1882).
Skírnir Persuades Gerðr to Follow Him. Karl Ehrenberg (1882).

The story of Freya and Gerðr is mentioned in both the Poetic and Prose Edda of Icelandic folklore, though they differ as to whether Freya had to rely on the threats of his servant Skirnir to win Gerðr as his bride.  How romantic.

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Also on this day in 1872, with a touch of deja vu, asteroid 123 Brunhild was also discovered by C H F Peters, and named after the famous Valkyrie of Norse mythology. IRAS observations give us a diameter of just over 48 km, somewhat smaller than Gerda, and this particular S-type main belt asteroid is a little speedier, taking 1615 days to orbit the Sun at about 18 km/s.

Siegfried awakens Brünnhilde (Arthur Rackham).
Siegfried awakens Brünnhilde (Arthur Rackham).

Brynhildr (aka Brunhild or Brunhilde) is also mentioned in the Edda (and the Völsunga Saga), but is today mostly known as a stereotypically enormous-bosommed soprano from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.

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