November 22 – Asteroid 156 Xanthippe

Asteroid 156 Xanthippe was discovered by Johann Palisa on November 22nd 1875. It has been classified as a C-type, with a diameter of about 116km and a rotation period of 22.5 hours.

Xanthippe, whose name means “yellow horse”, was the wife of Socrates, and is a woman about whom we know little from historical sources. Even Plato, a man with an interest in Socrates bordering on the obsessive, mentions her only briefly in his Phaedo. In Xenophon’s writings she is shown to be a little on the argumentative side, and this view of her has been embroidered upon, probably unfairly, down the years, until by Shakespeare’s time her name had become synonymous with an aggressive, bad-tempered woman.

Socrates and Xanthippe
Socrates and Xanthippe

The engraving above, by the Dutch artist Otto van Veen, is of Xanthippe emptying a chamber pot over the head of Socrates (supposedly the outcome of one of their many arguments).

1944 Death of Arthur Eddington, aged 61, the man who gave us the Eddington limit, the maximum luminosity achievable by a star.

1969The Skynet 1A satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. This was the first of a series of British satellites providing a means of communication for the armed forces. Being British, of course, it broke after about a year (probably just after the warranty expired) but is still in orbit, and is likely to remain there, according to the UK Space Agency’s “UK Registry of Outer Space Objects” for upwards of a million years.

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