May 16 – 87 Sylvia

Asteroid 87 Sylvia was discovered on May 16th 1866 by N R Pogson, author of the Madras Catalogue of stars, at Madras Observatory.

Sylvia is a large asteroid in the Cybele group of bodies in the outer core of the main belt.  She is an x-type asteroid, with “x” in this case doing its usual job of signifying the uncertainty surrounding their composition.

Sylvia is named after Rhea Silvia, descendant of Aeneas, daughter of Numitor, and, in an unusual career move for a Vestal Virgin, mother of Romulus and Remus.

Rhea Silvia, torso from the amphitheatre at Cartagena, Spain.

Rhea Silvia, torso from the amphitheatre at Cartagena, Spain.

Sylvia has two satellites. They were given the fairly obvious names of Romulus (discovered in 2001) and Remus (2004).

1888  –  Discovery of asteroid 278 Paulina by Johann Palisa.

2011 saw the launch of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 02 (AMS-02) via shuttle Endeavour, to be mounted onboard the ISS.  AMS-02′s raison d’etre is to measure cosmic rays as part of the ongoing search for dark matter.  It seems to be working well so far, making 1,000 recordings a second (at a rough guess that probably means about 30 billion by now).