February 08 – Discovery of 183 Istria (1878) and others

Asteroid 283 Emma was spotted by Auguste Charlois on this very day in 1889. It’s a large, potato-shaped main-belt asteroid about 150 to 160km wide (opinions vary). Emma has a tiny companion, as yet unnamed, and so going by the official designation S/2003 (283) 1, of about 10km diameter. Why the name Emma was chosen remains a mystery.


Exactly eleven years and one hundred discoveries earlier we have S-type asteroid 183 Istria, discovered on February 8th 1878 by Johann Palisa from his observatory at the city of Pula (on the Istrian peninsula). Palisa was Austrian, and at that time Istria was part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire.

Pula, Istria.
Pula, Istria.

Asteroid Istria is about 35km in diameter, and has an absolute magnitude of about 9.6. It takes 1703 Earth days to make one journey around the Sun, rotating once in just under 12 hours as it does so.


1907 Asteroid 636 Erika discovered by Joel Hastings Metcalf, American astronomer, optical wizard and Unitarian minister. Erika is a fairly ordinary size for the main belt, at about 74km diameter.


1974 The last Skylab crew (Gerrard P Carr, William R Pogue and Edward G Gibson) returns to Earth after their 84-day mission. The estimated cost of keeping an astronaut on Skylab is scary: taking into account the total overall cost of the project, it was $20m per astronaut per day. (Figure is from “Cost of Piloted US Space Programs” , Claude Lafleur, Space Review, 08-03-2010.)