Asteroid 129 Antigone was discovered on February 5th, 1873 by C H F Peters. It’s a fairly regularly shaped body of about 120 km across, and is composed of a nickel-iron mix, putting it firmly in the metallic M class, and leading scientific types to conclude that it is probably the remains of the core of a planetesimal, destroyed at some point in the dim and distant past.
Antigone, as you know, was the daughter of Oedipus, the king of Thebes, and Jocasta, his queen (and mother). Basically, after Oedipus’ death, Antigone upsets King Creon, Oedipus’ predecessor, who had taken the opportunity to rule Thebes again after Oedipus’ sons had fallen out with one another in a big way. The upset comes about as a result of Antigone trying to arrange a decent burial for her brother Polynices, who was regarded as a traitor. Long story short: she hangs herself, and her beau (Creon’s son Hæmon) kills himself in his grief.
The depiction of Oedipus and Antigone above is by the amazingly-named Aleksander Kokular (1793 – 1846) a Polish painter and educator, and co-founder of the Warsaw School of Fine Arts. He was well-known for his mythological (as you can see) and religious works.
The story of Antigone with which most of us are familiar comes from Sophocles’ three Theban Plays (there are three of them, but they’re not a trilogy). I can`t recommend the Theban Plays highly enough. I consider Sophocles to be way above Aeschylus and Euripides when it comes to tales of misery and woe. Euripides did actually write an Antigone himself; the text is lost, but it’s known that tragedy is averted in this version by divine intervention. That’s not what I want! It’s supposed to be a tragedy! Make it tragic!
And I’m going to get really nerdy now, and say try to get the E F Watling translation. Robert Fagles is fine, but Watling is my preference.
Today’s second photograph is the front cover of my latest copy of the Theban Plays (Penguin Classics). It shows Oedipus dressed as a traveller (in other words wearing a hat and carrying a staff) pondering the riddle of the Sphinx.
1877 – S-type asteroid 172 Baucis discovered by Alphonse Borrelly, and named after a character in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
1987 – Japanese X-Ray satellite Ginga (otherwise known as Astro-C) was launched. It sounds like an acronym, but it isn’t. It’s Japanese for “galaxy”.
2002 – The Reuvan Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI, or RHESSI) was launched to study solar flares, with a view to working out why they occur, and how so much energy can be released in such a short time. Reuvan Ramaty, by the way, was an expert in cosmic rays, and one of the original members of the HESSI team. Unfortunately he died on April 8th, 2001, less than a year before launch.