2 Pallas

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Pallas, formally designated 2 Pallas, is the second asteroid to have been discovered, by astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers on March 28, 1802. It was at first considered a planet, as were other early asteroids, until the discovery of many more led to their re-classification. Pallas appears to be the largest irregularly shaped body in the Solar System (that is, the largest body not rounded under its own gravity), and a remnant protoplanet.

With a mass estimated to be 7% of the total mass of the asteroid belt,[12] Pallas is one of the largest asteroids. Its diameter is some 530–565 km, comparable to or slightly larger than that of 4 Vesta, but it is 20% less massive,[5] placing it third among the asteroids. The Palladian surface appears to be a silicate material; the surface spectrum and estimated density resemble carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. The Palladian orbit, at 34.8°, is unusually highly inclined to the plane of the main asteroid belt, and the orbital eccentricity is nearly as large as that of Pluto, making Pallas relatively inaccessible to spacecraft.[13][14]

Contents

Name

2 Pallas is named after Pallas Athena, an alternate name for the goddess Athena.[15][16] In some mythologies Athena killed Pallas, then adopted her friend's name out of mourning.[17] (There are several male characters of the same name in Greek mythology, but the first asteroids were invariably given female names.)

The stony-iron Pallasite meteorites are not connected to the Pallas asteroid, being instead named after the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas. The chemical element palladium, on the other hand, was named after the asteroid, which had been discovered just before the element.[18]

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