Tracking down Pallas


Pallas is the name given to the second asteroid discovered,  by German astronomer Heinrich  Olbers. He named the asteroid after himself, Pallas from Greek Mythology the patron goddess of Athens Greece, and our header image though from a shot in Vienna, Austria.  He was upset that Piazzi had beaten him in the race to find the first asteroid and so named the asteroid to upset the Roman. Alas, the Astronomical Society did not view it as such and prefixed 2- in front so it is known on astronomical circles as 2-Pallas, like an afterthought.¹

Marc Jones mentions it and says that its keyword is Science which is apropos for the goddess but does it work for the asteroid?  Getting carried away with the name and its inherent myth is a problem in astrology and with 32,000 Asteroids out there who really knows what Bamberga, Doris, and Ursula really impart to a chart?. We have tried over the many months using the Jonesian idea of “science” and have had little success — it is too abstract, and so in the same spirit we have used for other asteroids and planets, we now review Pallas.

 

                                              Olbers and Bode’s Law

Despite his nickname of “Comet Seeker,” most of history knows Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers for his discovery of asteroids and then his work on comets. In Kepler’s time a big gap in the Solar System between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter was spotted; and, Kepler posited a planet might be discovered there. The idea got widespread consideration, when Johann Elert Bode, later the director of the Berlin Observatory, drew attention to a numerical relationship between the distances of the planets — now known as Bode’s Law.

berlin planetarium
Painting of the Berlin Planetarium

The theory postulates that if the number four is added to each 1, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96, and 192, the resulting series represents the distances of the planets from the Sun, thus—4 (Mercury), 7 (Venus), 10 (Earth), 16 (Mars), 28 — , 52 (Jupiter), and 100 (Saturn).

Uranus when discovered by Sir William Herschel  was found to correspond to the number 196 making the number 28 lacking a planet to represent it in the great celestial sphere.  That seemed mysterious and Bode suggested that they go searching for it.    He & Baron Franz Xaver von Zach of Budapest,  summoned a congress of astronomers in 1800 at Schroter’s observatory in Lilienthal, Lower Saxony, and suggested that the twenty-four astronomers known to be active at the time, should take part in a search, and assigned each a zone in the sky so that they would not duplicate one another’s efforts. Zone one was assigned to the Italian astronomer, Piazzi of Palermo, who was not present at the meeting.

Unaware that he was either to co-operate with the research, or what zone he was assigned, Piazzi and Ceres seemed destined to meet. On I January 1801 , the first night of the nineteenth century, while engaged on the observations for his star-catalogue, he saw a strange object that on the next two evenings altered its position. Piazzi decided that he had detected a tailless comet & hastened to inform Bode of his discovery. The Berlin astronomer at once concluded that the object of his zone search had been found, and rushed to send out the news. It was not until 24 January though, that Piazzi could verify his conclusions, but by that time, the eager Bode had published Piazzi’s findings with the 1 January date (which we errantly used in understanding Ceres).

While everyone searched for Ceres, it wandered into Sun’s spring rays and got lost. Questions about Piazzi’s findings abounded but Carl Friedrich Gauss a young and obscure math tutor at the time, solved the problem inventing the formula of least squares to solve the problem. He assigned Ceres to the constellation Virgo where a year later it was “rediscovered” — 31 December 1801 by von Zach at Gotha, Thuringen and then again on the following evening by Olbers at Bremen. Now that it was truly known, Piazzi’s name was adopted and Ceres was checked off the list.

athena1316034957964.jpg
Painting of the Temple of Athena at the Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens Greece

Olbers though was hot on Pallas and before astronomers could discuss Ceres and Piazzi he discovered Pallas This asteroid was moving in an orbit almost similar to Ceres, and at practically the same distance from the Sun but was finally pinned down on 27 March 1802. Olbers suggested that there might be other objects of the same kind yet to be found — and soon there was: 3-Juno, discovered by Karl Ludwig Harding, a student at Lilienthal on 2 September 1804, and 4-Vesta, by Olbers again on 29 March 1807.

Olbers sought to explain why there were two planets instead of one in the trans-Martian gap, and put forward the theory that the two small bodies were fragments of a larger planet which had been shattered to pieces by a violent explosion in the past. The discovery of Juno and Vesta confirmed his provisional hypothesis; but it has yet to be accepted as valid.

Pallas’s meaning

Science is a bit too vague a keyword–too abstract, but we like the idea. Other meanings beckon for Pallas and looking at the Ascendant of 27.18 Scorpio, we find in Charubel that it is a degree where on a rocky eminence a cross is carved in stone.  He suggests the keywords that fit Pallas well, austere, monastic yet faithful.

The Fairy King welcomed back to his dominion

Marc Jones & Elsie Wheeler always take the theosophical line and say that this degree is the “king of fairies approaching his native lands.”  He suggests that here it is the ability to focus on the matter at hand even if others say it is impossible and warn against foolhardiness.  E. C. Chambers & Dr. Gordon agree, suggesting that this is hardworking persevering degree.

Looking to the Fixed Stars, we see that this Ascendant is near Bungula and so gives a fatalistic tinge — as Pallas could not help itself from being found.  And perhaps that is the truth.  Whatever, look at your Pallas and see how it works for you playing with the ideas we have suggested and after a while she will reveal her secrets like it did to Herr Olbers.

                                 Footnotes:

  1. The Notre Dame Scholastic, volume 5, issue # 17 published December 30 1871, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame Indiana (now Terre Haute). It was published every week during the term and issue #1 starts with the inaugural September issue.
  2. The Makers of Astronomy by Prof. Hector MacPherson, Clarendon Press, Oxford University, England, 1933.
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