August Kopff’s 68 asteroids (Part Two)

February 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

I finally finished part two of August Kopff’s list of asteroids, each with it’s own unique, usually female, name. There were some interesting selections, loaded with various meanings, in Part One, and the next batch of names is no different. Though these lists look for the trends in the names of asteroids attributed to one German astronomer in particular and take a ton of energy, I’ve decided that it would leave me feeling like I left something unfinished if I didn’t finally complete the project (and I’ve still got two more parts to go).

Unique (or at the very least, mythological) names are no problem for Mr. Kopff. So on to part 2, a prolific period for Kopff, and plenty more gems:

613 Ginevra (October 11, 1906)
It’s not confirmed why Kopff chose Ginevra for his next discovery, with some speculating that he chose the name in honour of Guinevere, wife of King Arthur. Like his previous selection, Jenny, it’s Welsh (and Italian) for “fair and smooth.”

It’s a beautiful and exotic name, especially popular these days in Italy. Italian footballer Alberto Gilardino gave it to his daughter, born 2007. It’s also the name of Italian heiress and socialite Ginevra Elkann. It’s popularity could easily expand to English speaking countries, especially thanks to the Harry Potter series. Ron Weasley’s little sister Ginny, who eventually marries the boy wizard, is really Ginevra.

614 Pia (October 11, 1906)
This asteroid was probably named for the Pia Observatory in Trieste, northern Italy, the private observatory of the German astronomer and moon researcher Johan Nepomuk Krieger. His research was of great assistance to Kopff and his team in Germany.

This name has survived well past it’s association with singer/actress Pia Zadora, a star in the 1980s who won two Golden Globes. It’s a sweet and simple feminine name meaning “pious” in Latin, and the phonetic similarity to popular choices like Mia and Leah keeps it relevant.

(more after the jump)

615 Roswitha (October 11, 1906)
This 50km-wide asteroid was named Roswitha, which is Germanic for “famous strength.” Ninth Century Roswitha, or Hrosvitha, is regarded as the first German woman poet. She wrote two verse chronicles: one about the history of the Benedictine convent of Gandersheim where she lived as a nun, and the other about the emperor Otto the Great. She also wrote six comedies in Latin in an effort to counteract the pagan morality expressed in classical works. Each year the Roswitha Prize is awarded to German women in the literary field.

The name has very outside potential of gaining any traction in North America, though the name may have what it takes to crack Britain. It’s a very refined name, and in many ways it feels a little bit Celtic.

616 Elly (October 17, 1906)
This asteroid was named after Kopff’s death, in honour of 20th Century German mathematician Karl Bohm’s wife, Elly Meyer-Elles – a translator. This is a name that’s already trending, a popular nickname choice for everything from Eleanor or Evelyn to Ellen/Helen, and Elizabeth, as a more playful alternative to uber-popular Ella, and more modern alternative to Elsie. Elly is regarded as a Greek name meaning “sun ray, shining light,” though the spelling Ellie is more common.

With the recent influx of traditional names as given first names (like Eleanor), it might be more likely to see Elly pop up as a non-official nickname.

617 Patroclus (October 17, 1906)
Only the second Trojan asteroid ever discovered, it shares it’s orbit around the sun with Jupiter, and was named for Greek warrior Patroclus, depicted as Achilles beloved brother-in-arms in the mythological works of ancient Greek poet, Homer. Patroclus was like a brother to the epic warrior, Achilles, who murdered Hektor before he was felled by the arrow of Hektor’s cowardly brother Paris – whose love for Greek Helena was the ultimate catalyst to the Trojan War. The arrow pierced Achilles’ heel, said to be his one weak spot, and he was killed. In 2001, it was discovered that the asteroid Patroclus is infact binary, or composed of two objects. A companion asteroid of the same size was discovered orbiting with Patroclus, and in 2006 it was designated Menoetius, after the mythical warrior’s Argonaut father.

Ancient Greek for “glory of the father,” from patro (father) + klos (glory), Latin variations on the Greek root for ‘father’ are more likely to trend, such as Spanish Pedro. Interestingly, Patroclus is the only Greek-named asteroid in the main belt’s Trojan group.

1781 Van Biesbroeck (October 17, 1906)
The same night he discovered Elly and Patroclus, Kopff discovered Van Biesbroeck. Perhaps inspired by his selection of Patroclus and it’s relation to Achilles, he named this main-belt asteroid after a colleague, Belgian-American astronomer Georges-Achilles Van Biesbroeck. The astronomer also has a star named after him.

In Flemish and Dutch heritage, the use of Van in front of a surname indicates that someone’s ancestors were “of” somewhere or someone, much like Mac in Scottish, or O’ in Irish names. Van has seen some use as a first name for boys, perhaps in honour of the legendary Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, but isn’t incredibly common. Recently we’ve seen Van as a football player and teenage dad played by Steve Howey, in the titular sitcom starring country singer Reba McEntire in the mid-2000s.

619 Triberga (October 22, 1906)
Kopff named this main-belt asteroid, which is about 43km wide, after the south Bavarian town of Triberg. Located within the fabled Black Forest, the area is home to the 496m Triberg Waterfalls, a modern tourist destination. Triberg is also home to the world’s largest cuckoo clock!

Triberga is unlikely to trend for either sex, the syllable ‘berg’ just isn’t on the trend radar these days.

621 Werdandi (November 11, 1906)
A small asteroid on the outer rim of the main belt, Werdandi is among the Themistian group of asteroids, named for the first of them discovered, 24 Themis (first sighted in 1853 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis, and named for the personification of natural law and divine order in Greek mythology). Werdandi is from the German verb werden, “to become,” (Dutch worden), which derived from the Old Norse Verðandi, meaning either “happening” or “present.” In Norse mytholgy, Verdandi – which also translates literally into “to become” – was one of three Norns who decided the word (wyrd, as in their past, present, and future) of the people. The others were Urðr (“fate”), and Skuld (either “debt” or “past”). Werdandi is a Germanic variation on the mythological figure, as the fantasy theme will probably always play a strong role in the science of astronomy, which was at one time deemed a fantasy and a crime against God.

624 Hektor (February 10, 1907)
Perhaps to purposely offset Patroclus’ existence in the Trojan group of main-belt asteroids as the only one that is Greek-named, a similar asteroid in the neighbouring Greek group of asteroids was named Hektor, after the mythological Trojan prince who was murdered by Achilles, when it was discovered by Kopff months later, thus making it the only Trojan-named asteroid in the Greek group. Ironically, Hektor is of Greek origin, meaning “steadfast.”

At over 370km wide, astronomers had long suspected that Hektor was in fact made up of two objects – in 2006 they confirmed Hektor was made of two parts – one larger than the other one. At the same time, they discovered a 15km wide moonlet orbiting the space rock.

As a name, Hektor, or Hector, is relatively common in the Latin world but not many places elsewhere.

625 Xenia (February 11, 1907)
It’s not confirmed why Kopff selected Xenia for his next asteroid discovery. The name is Greek for “welcoming a guest/stranger” and can be pronounced zaynya, zeenya, or ksenya. With the line between trending Z and X names continually blurring, use of this name could also spur the pronunciation ZENeeah. That same pronunciation confusion could be what stops a name like this from trending, but we also know how much today’s parents like choice.

It’s possible that the name was to honour 18th Century St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, because his second discovery on the same night was in honour of St. Notburga. Xenia lived comfortably in the Russian city for the first 26 years of her life, but after the sudden death of her husband she took to the streets, wearing his clothes and calling herself by his name, saying that she, Xenia, had died. She gave everything away save for the clothes on her back, trusting that God would protect her. She spent the last 45 years of her life helping those around her, and whenever she was given food she handed all of it over to the poor.

626 Notburga (February 11, 1907)
Kopff’s next discovery was named for 13th Century St. Notburga, patroness of servants and peasants. Notburga was a cook in the court of Count Henry of Rothenburg. Notburga was banished for stealing food by the mistress of the home, Ottilia, though Notburga was merely taking table scraps meant for the pigs to the poor without food. It’s said that even though she was banished, when she was caught stealing she was not caught with food, which she had taken. The food turned to sawdust and the wine to vinegar. She eventually returned to the home, with honour and forgiveness, when it was determined the home had fallen into troubling luck upon Notburga’s dismissal.

The name may begin with not, but this name is even less likely to catch on than similar Triberga, even with it’s connection to Christianity. The name Notburga is said to derive from Germanic not (“needy”) + burg (“fortress”), and likely described a castle under duress in some form before finding use as a name.

627 Charis (March 4, 1907)
The asteroid 627 Charis was named for the Greek word for “grace,” but more specifically after the Three Graces, or Charites in Greek mythology. Daughters of Zeus of Eurynome, they are the goddesses of charm. Their names – Euphrosyne (“cheerfulness”), Thalia (“good cheer”), and Aglaia (“the shining”) – could be waiting in the wings for a comeback with other complex Greek favourites trending lately, but Charis isn’t likely to fit in that particular mold.

Charis sounds like Charo, the overexposed Latin entertainer-cum-showgirl from the 1970s, and char is either a fish or a burn, but Charis could still inspire as an alternative to the immensely common Grace.

628 Christine (March 7, 1907)
The origin of the asteroid 628 Christine’s name is unknown, but Christine has long been a common female name, a variation on male Christopher. Both are from the Greek word Christ and mean “follower of the messiah.” Christ is the Greek (and since Anglicized) translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” Though the name Christine was recently incredibly popular for women throughout the 1960s and ’70s, the Stephen King-penned horror novel and accompanying film, Christine, reminded parents how over-exposed the name had become. But it, and variations Christina/Kristina, Christin/Kristin, and Christa/Krista, are nowhere near falling out of fashion just yet. It’s possible that Christine was simply named for a friend, relative, or colleague.

It’s common practice to name celestial discoveries after one’s wife (and considered unprofessional to name one after yourself), but Kopff never did. Some have, erroneously, assumed that Christine was Kopff’s wife, but his wife’s name was actually Hormuth. His friend and co-discoverer on some of his earliest findings, Dr. Max Wolf, appended Mrs. Kopff with the honour – he discovered 805 Hormuthia in Heidelberg in 1915.

629 Bernardina (March 7, 1907)
Kopff’s next discovery that same night also has unknown name origins. The name is a variation on French Bernadette, and Old German Bernardine or Bernarda, derived from the German male name Bernard, and it means “strong, brave bear.” Of the three female appellations, Bernadette remains most common. But Bernard is out of fashion in much of the English-speaking world for boys, and that has dampened usage of the feminine variations, too.

630 Euphemia (March 7, 1907)
The final asteroid that Kopff found on this night was inspired by the group of asteroids in which is was discovered – the Eunomia family. Named for the Greek goddess of the same name, Eunomia means “governance according to good laws” and she is goddess of law and legislation, and also a daughter of Zeus and Themis. Using the same first two letters, Kopff named this asteroid after Euphemia of Chalcedon – a 3rd Century Christian martyr and virgin. She was said to be kidnapped and tortured by the Romans for her faith, and thrown into a pit of wild animals to die. Legend says that the guard who went into the pit to stab her to death when she was not murdered by the animals, was himself mauled by the ravenous creatures.

Chalcedon was located in what is now Istanbul, and in the 4th Century a basilica was built upon the site of her grave. But more than 200 years later her remains were exhumed, to be split between Constantinople, where her father had been a loyal senator, and Rovinj in what is now Croatia, where she is regarded as their patron saint. The district of Istanbul named for ancient Chalcedon, called Kadıköy, is located just across the Sea of Marmara from the original location, in central Istanbul. In the 6th Century, like-named Empress Euphemia, wife of Justin I of the Byzantines, commissioned a church in the young martyr’s honour in Constantinople.

Euphemia is Greek and means “well spoken,” and the term euphemism denotes an often clever wordplay. As a name it could see light along with other Greek selections, but is farther down the list of favourites than more common selections like Penelope, Zoe, Athena, or Talia.

631 Philippina (March 21, 1907)
Kopff named his next asteroid after Philipp Kessler, a longtime friend, in honour of his marriage to his friend Jenny Adolfine Kessler. About seven months earlier, Kopff had named two asteroids – one for her first name, and one for her middle – after the missus to honour the engagement (see part one). Keeping to the trend to give asteroids female names, he fancifully feminized his friend’s name.

Philip is a Greek name, meaning “lover of horses,” that has experienced centuries of common use. Female variations, especially of late Philippa and Pippa, have also experienced some success, in countries all over the world. Philippina, maybe for it’s abundant syllables or similarity to the term Filipina, for a woman from the Philippines, is less used as a given name. Philippina is also a variation on the Greek Philopena (it also means “lover of horses”), which is less familiar to English readers than Philomena, which is Greek for “powerful love.”

632 Pyrrha (April 5, 1907)
The last of Kopff’s asteroid discoveries (for today) was named for the wife of Deucalion, who was born the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora (yep, the one who opened the Box.) Pyrrha and Deucalion were the only survivors of the flood stirred by Zeus to call an end of the Olympians’ Golden Age. The couple survived because they were told by Pyrrha’s uncle (Epimetheus’ brother) Prometheus, to build a ship. (Epimetheus and Prometheus were the brothers of Atlas, who held the world on his shoulders, and Menoetius, whose son was Achilles’ best friend Patroclus.)

After the stormed passed, Deucalion and Pyrrha asked the goddess Themis how to repopulate the earth. Themis told them to “throw the bones of their mother over their shoulders.” They knew this meant the earth mother Gaia, and that the bones of the earth meant stones, so they threw thousands upon thousands of rocks over their shoulders. For each rock that Deucalion threw, a male was born, and for each rock thrown by Pyrrha came a woman.

The name Pyrrha is Greek for “red” (and that’s a silent h), which could bring on a whole new dimension to names on the spectrum of colour.


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§ 2 Responses to August Kopff’s 68 asteroids (Part Two)

  • He seems to have had a real knack for naming asteroids (he was an astronomer, not an astrologer though).

    Ginevra, Elly, Xenia and maybe Phillipina sound like possibilities, although some people say Ginevra is too Harry Potter.

    I thought Charis and Euphemia were perfectly usable, but I’m told they are both hideous names, and amongst the worst that people could think of.

    MInd you, they said that about Edith at one time, and now look.

  • I stumbled across Verdandi a few years ago, and I kind of like her but I’m not sure what I’d shorten her to (if I were to). Best I can come up with is Vera?

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