November 27 – Discovery of Asteroid 82 Alkmene (1864)

Asteroid 82 Alkmene was discovered by the prolific German asteroid hunter Robert Luther on November 27th 1864. It’s a medium-sized S-type main belt asteroid, orbiting the Sun every four and a half years.

The Labour of Alcmena (Virgil Solis)
The Labour of Alcmena (Virgil Solis)

Alkmene was named, at Luther’s request, by Karl von Littrow (director of the Vienna Observatory), Edmund Weiss (who would also become director of the Vienna Observatory, in 1878) and Theodor von Oppolzer (a professor at Vienna University), after the mother of Herakles. Zeus was the father, but didn’t go to any of the great lengths he normally employed in order to have his way with her. He simply disguised himself as Alcmene’s husband, Amphitryon, which was well below his normal level of inventiveness. But then again he’d already added a certain amount of deviation by going after her in the first place, as she was his great-granddaughter.

Today’s picture is a woodcut from a collection of 183 by the German artist Virgil Solis for a 1581 edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.


2011 Discovery of the long period comet 2011 W3 Lovejoy by Terry Lovejoy, an australian amateur astronomer, responsible for the discovery of a further 4 comets..