August 17 – Discovery of Asteroid 295 Theresia (1890)

Main belt asteroid 295 Theresia was discovered on August 17th 1890 by the Austria astronomer Johann Palisa, a familiar name in these pages thanks to his enormous haul of asteroid finds.
This particular body is unusual among the earlier named asteroids in that even now, over a century later, almost nothing is known about its physical characteristics.  So the best I can do today is say that it is about 28km in diameter and has an,absolute magnitude of 10.19.

What I can tell you though, is that the name Theresia is in honour of Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina, daughter of Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor.  She and her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, had sixteen children, one of whom was christened Maria Antonio Josepha Johanna, but became better known later in life as Queen Marie Antoinette of France.

wpid-andreas_moeller_-_erzherzogin_maria_theresia_-_kunsthistorisches_museum.jpg

Johann Palisa was born in the region called Austrian Silesia (nowadays part of the Czech Republic), and Maria Theresa’s desire to regain control of this region, following its loss by her father in the War of Austrian Succession, helped bring Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy to blows in the Seven Years War (known as the Third Silesian War in that neck of the woods).

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August 09 – Discovery of Asteroid 165 Loreley (1876)

Asteroid 165 Lorely was discovered today in 1876 by C H F Peters.

Named after the Lorelei of Germanic legend, a siren, similar to Wagner’s Rhine maidens, who sat above the rock of the same name on the Rhine and distracted sailors with her looks and song.

Rhinemaidens
Rhinemaidens

Today’s photograph features (centre) the great German soprano Lilli Lehmann (1848-1929), one of the singers at the first Bayreuth Festival of Richard Wagner’s music, and who helped popularise Wagner in the United States. She is shown here as part of the 1876 premiere cast of the Ring.

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ALSO TODAY . . . .
1975 – Launched today, into an eccentric orbit (to keep it out of the way of the Earth’s radiation belts) was the COS-B spacecraft, an ESA mission with the sole aim of measuring gamma-rays using a spark chamber,
in which the incoming rays were converted into an electron and a positron (causing the spark). Analysis of the spark allowed Cos-B to calculate the direction from which the gamma-ray had come. Cos-B was highly successful, not least in terms of lifespan. This had been estimated at 2 years, but ended up at over 6 years.

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