September 25 – Launch of Shenzhou 7 (2008)

A lot of people in the west don’t even know the Chinese have put people in space, but they have. And they’re going to catch up. Shenzhou 7 was launched on September 25th, 2008, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Mongolia, and the three-man crew (a first for China) of Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng spent just under three days in orbit. Commander Zhai became the first Chinese astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

The mission ended with a successful landing, also in Mongolia.

The Chinese have a very long name for their astronauts, “Navigating Outer-Space Personnel”, although if you put the Chinese characters 航天员 into Google Translate it throws “astronaut” back. My Chinese reading skills leave a lot to be desired, but I can tell you that the second character means “sky”or” heaven”. The press seem to have adopted the word “taikonaut”. Apparently, the word tàikōng means “space”.

September 25 – Discovery of Asteroid 203 Pompeja (1879)

Asteroid 203 Pompeja was discovered on September 25th 1879 by our old workaholic friend, the German-American astronomer Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters. There isn’t much to say about it except it’s about 116 km across, and completes one orbit of the Sun every four and a half Earth years. Peters made all 48 of his asteroid discoveries, between 1861 and 1889, from the Litchfield Observatory at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Unfortunately it has since burnt down.

Pompeii (photo by me)
Pompeii (photo by me)

Which brings me subtly to the fact that Pompeja was named after the town of Pompeii, and given a suitably asteroidal name by changing the ending (for some reason they sound better if they finish with an “a”). Pompeii is an amazing place; you really should go.

Aphelion 3.376 AU
Perihelion 2.082 AU
Orbital period 4.51 years
orbital speed 18.03 km/second
Semi-major axis 2.729 AU
Eccentricity 0.237
Inclination 10.921°
Longitude of ascending node 97.251°

(epoch – Jan 30 2005)