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Philibert Jacques Melotte

Born: January 29, 1880, London, U.K.
Died: March 30, 1961, Abinger, U.K.

Born in Camden Town, London, Philibert Jacques Melotte was the son of Belgian immigrants. At age 15 he was hired by the Royal Observatory as a supernumerary computer. Assigned to the Observatory's Astrographic Department, and under the tutelage of H.P. Hollis, Melotte developed a lifelong passion for celestial photography. It was during the course of his astrographic catalogue work that, on February 28, 1908, while studying photographic plates of the outer satellites of Jupiter, he discovered a new moon of that planet. Originally designated Jupiter VIII, the moon was renamed Pasiphae* in 1975.

Irregular in shape, Pasiphae has an estimated diameter of 58 km, and is thought to be an asteroid, or fragment of an asteroid, that has been captured by Jupiter's gravity. With an orbital period of 764 days, this moon is in a very eccentric, highly inclined, retrograde orbit, and is the largest member of the Pasiphae Group comprising similar irregular retrograde moons.

On January 16, 1909, Melotte discovered asteroid 676 Melitta, and in the same year he was given the Jackson-Gwilt Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society. Since 1897, this medal has been awarded by the Society to individuals for the invention, improvement, or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques; for achievement in observational astronomy; or for achievement in research into the history of astronomy.

Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Flamsteed House, Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London

In 1915 Melotte published a catalogue of star clusters which he had identified from photographic plates of the sky taken by British amateur astronomer John Franklin-Adams (1843-1912). Containing both open clusters and globular clusters, this list is entitled A Catalogue of Star Clusters shown on Franklin-Adams Chart Plates.

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* In Greek mythology, Pasiphae was the daughter of Helios the sun god, and wife of King Minos of Crete. When King Minos decided to keep for himself a beautiful, unblemished white bull that was intended as a sacrifice for Poseidon, the god punished him by causing Pasiphae to fall in love with it. After mating with the animal, she gave birth to the Minotaur, a flesh-eating monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull.