September 19 – Discovery of Asteroid 48 Doris (1857)

Asteroid 48 Doris is a large main belt asteroid, and one of two to be spotted on September 19th 1857 by Hermann Goldschmidt.

The Doris after whom the asteroid was named was an Oceanid (a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys).  She had one son and fifty daughters, collectively known as the Nereids after their father Nereus.  She was Achilles’ grandmother.

Doris and Hippocamp

Today’s accompanying visual aid shows a rather sour-looking Doris riding a hippocamp (literally “horse monster” in Greek).


September 19 – Birth of Astronomer C H F Peters (1813)

Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters  was born in Koldenbüttel (which was in Denmark at the time) on September 19th 1813, and became a big name in asteroid spotting, finding 48 in all, which makes him second in the all-time list of visual asteroid discoveries after Johann Palisa.

Peters was a bit of a radical in his youth, and while living in Italy his attempts to avoid the attentions of the authorities ended up with his fleeing to Turkey, where he made the acquaintance of the American ambassador, and before long found himself across the Atlantic mixing with the Harvard scientific community, and speaking in front of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Rhode Island.

C H F Peters

Peters settled down at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, as professor of astronomy, and as we have been hearing in this blog at irregular intervals all year, he made good use of their large 13½ inch refractor, working on sunspots by day and looking for asteroids at night.  I’m not sure when he slept.

His work was greatly aided by a supplement added to his rather meagre salary by a local businessman, who had the college observatory re-named after himself in return (to the Litchfield Observatory).  

Peters discovered his last asteroid, 287 Nephthys, at the age of 76, less than a year before his death.  He died on his way to the observatory, on July 19th 1890.