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18 Melpomene

A stony asteroid of the Solar System's main Asteroid Belt, Melpomene is an irregularly shaped object primarily composed of silicate compounds and metals. It is slightly elongated in form, measuring some 170 km along its longest axis and about 130 km along its shortest.

Melpomene pursues an orbital course that carries it through the inner parts of the Asteroid Belt, taking some three and a half years to complete each circuit of the Sun. There are some indications that this asteroid may possess a small satellite, though attempts to verify this satellite's existence have not been successful.

Melpomene was discovered in 1852 by John Russell Hind (the astronomer who gave his name to Hind's Crimson Star, among several other notable discoveries). He chose to name the asteroid after Melpomenē, one of the nine muses of Greek tradition, whose province was music and tragedy. Over the next two years, he went on to discover and name four further asteroids for the Greek muses: Kalliope, Thalia, Euterpe and Urania. The tradition was taken up by other astronomers, and over the following years the remaining four muses also gained namesakes in the Asteroid Belt: Polyhymnia, Erato, Terpsichore and finally Klio, which completed the group of nine with its naming in 1865.