February 16 – Miranda

Also known as Uranus V, Miranda was discovered by Gerard P Kuiper on February 16th 1948, making it the last Uranian moon to be discovered by Earth-based observing equipment. We have some fairly good shots of Miranda’s southern hemisphere taken by Voyager 2, which paid a visit in 1986. These show this small moon (only one seventh the size of our own Moon) to be an interesting place, crossed by grooves and enormous canyons, some more than ten times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Miranda, in common with the other larger Uranian moons, is thought to be composed of mostly silicates and water ice.

Miranda (image credit: NASA)
Miranda (image credit: NASA)

Obviously there must always remain a degree of uncertainty regarding the composition of a place we’ve only been to once, rather fleetingly, for ‘Tis far off, and rather like a dream than an assurance (Act 1, Scene 2). Miranda is the only female character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

1880 – Asteroid 213 Lilaea discovered by C H F Peters. Lilaea is approximately 83 km across, has a year lasting four and a half Earth years, a day lasting just over 8 hours, and is named after a Naiad (water nymph).

1891305 Gordonia is a 49 km wide main belt asteroid, discovered by Auguste Charlois and named after his patron, James Gordon Bennett Jr, publisher of the New York Herald, and thought to be the man from whom we get the exclamation “Gordon Bennett!”.

1965 – launch of Pegasus 1, via Saturn I rocket number SA-9 from Cape Kennedy to study the effects of micrometeoroid impact, which it achieved by use of two giant wings, unfurled upon reaching orbit. Pegasus 1 remained operational until it was deactivated on August 29th 1968. It remained in orbit until 1978.

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