Max Wolf

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Max Wolf
Max Wolf.jpg
Max Wolf
Born (1863-06-21)June 21, 1863
Heidelberg, Germany (Bund)
Died October 3, 1932(1932-10-03) (aged 69)
Heidelberg, Germany (Weimar)
Nationality German
Fields Astronomy
Institutions University of Heidelberg
Alma mater University of Heidelberg
Doctoral advisor Leo Königsberger
Doctoral students August Kopff
Heinrich Vogt
Wilhelm Lorenz
Known for Astrophotography
Notable awards Bruce Medal (1930)
Minor planets discovered: 248 [1]
see § List of discovered minor planets

Maximilian Franz Joseph Cornelius Wolf (June 21, 1863 – October 3, 1932) was a German astronomer and a pioneer in the field of astrophotography. He was Chairman of Astronomy at the University of Heidelberg and director of the Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory from 1902 until his death.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Heidelberg, Germany on June 21, 1863, the son of a popular medical doctor, Dr. Franz Wolf. His father encouraged an interest in science and built an observatory for his son in the garden of the family home. It is from here that Wolf is credited with his first astronomical discovery, comet 14P/Wolf, in 1884.[2]

Life at the university[edit]

He attended the town's world famous university and, in 1888, at the age of 25, he was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Heidelberg. He spent one year of post-graduate study in Stockholm, the only significant time he would spend outside of Heidelberg in his life. He returned to the University of Heidelberg and accepted the position of privat-docent in 1890. A popular lecturer in astronomy, he declined offers of positions from other institutions. In 1902 he was appointed Chair of Astronomy and Director of the new Landessternwarte Heidelberg-Königstuhl observatory. Positions he would hold until his death in 1932.[3]

The Bruce double astrograph at Heidelberg Observatory

While the new observatory was being built Wolf was appointed to supervise the construction and outfitting of the astrophysics half of the observatory. He proved to be a not only a capable supervisor but also a successful money raiser. When sent to America to study the construction of the large new telescopes being built there he returned not only with telescope plans but also with a grant of $10,000 from the American philanthropist Catherine Wolfe Bruce. Wolf immediately designed and ordered a double refractor telescope from American astronomer and instrument builder, John Brashear. This instrument, known as the Bruce double-astrograph, with parallel 16 in (41 cm) lenses and a fast f/5 focal ratio, became the observatory's primary research telescope. He also raised money for a 28 in (71 cm) reflector telescope, the first for the observatory, used for spectroscopy.[4]

In 1910 Wolf proposed to the Carl Zeiss optics firm the creation of a new instrument, now known as the planetarium. World War I intervened before this could be developed, but the Carl Zeiss company resumed this project after peace was restored. The first official public showing was at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany on October 21, 1923.[5]

During his trip to America he was interested in learning more about the relatively new field of astrophotography and so he met the famous American astronomer and astrophotographer E.E. Barnard. The two would become lifelong correspondents, competitors, collaborators and friends. Wolf was clearly moved by the death of his friend in 1923 and wrote a long obituary.[6]

Later life and death[edit]

The University, already world-renowned in many other fields, became well known for astronomy, due primarily to Wolf's leadership. Wolf himself was an active researcher, contributing numerous papers in many areas of astronomy up to the end of his life, which must have been sudden and unexpected. Like his friend, E. E. Barnard, he died rather young for an astronomer. He died in Heidelberg on October 3, 1932, at the age of 69. He was survived by his widow and three sons.[2]

Comets and novae[edit]

Wolf started his career as a comet hunter and continued to discover them throughout his life. He discovered or co-discovered several comets, including 14P/Wolf and 43P/Wolf-Harrington. He won a competition with E. E. Barnard on who would be the first to observe the return of Halley's Comet (P1/Halley) in April, 1910.[4]

He discovered or co-discovered four supernovae: SN 1895A (a.k.a. VW Vir), SN 1909A (a.k.a. SS UMa), SN 1920A, and, with Reinmuth, SN 1926A.

Dark nebulae[edit]

One of the many significant contributions Wolf made was in the determination of the nature of dark nebulae. These areas of the sky, thought since William Herschel's time to be "holes in the sky", were a puzzle to astronomers. In these areas no stars could be seen, only featureless black. In collaboration with E. E. Barnard, he proved, by careful photographic analysis, that these dark nebulae were actually huge clouds of fine opaque dust.[4]

Star catalog[edit]

Along with E. E. Barnard, Wolf applied astrophotography to the observation of stars. The Bruce double-astrograph was originally designed to hunt dim asteroids but it was found to be ideally suited for the study of the proper motion of low luminosity stars using much the same technique. In 1919 Wolf published a catalog of the locations of over one thousand stars along with their measured proper motion. These stars are still commonly identified by his name and catalog number.[7] Among the stars he discovered is Wolf 359, a dim red dwarf that was later found to be one of the nearest stars to our solar system.[8] He continued to add proper motion star discoveries to this catalog throughout his life, with the catalog eventually totaling over 1500 stars, many more than all of his competitors combined.[9] These stars are significant because stars with low luminosity and high proper motion, such as Barnard's Star and Wolf 359, are usually relatively close to the Earth and thus the stars in Wolf's catalog remain popular subjects for astronomical research to this day. The methods used successfully by E. E. Barnard and Wolf were continued with success by Frank Elmore Ross and George Van Biesbroeck up through the mid 20th century. Since that time photographic plates have been gradually replaced with more sensitive electronic photodetectors for astronomical surveys.

Asteroids[edit]

In 1891, Wolf discovered his first asteroid, 323 Brucia, and named it after Catherine Wolfe Bruce. He pioneered the use of astrophotographic techniques to automate the discovery of asteroids, as opposed to older visual methods, as a result of which asteroid discovery rates sharply increased. In time-exposure photographs, asteroids appear as short streaks due to their planetary motion with respect to fixed stars. He discovered more than 200 asteroids in his lifetime.

Among his many discoveries was 588 Achilles (the first Trojan asteroid) in 1906, as well as two other Trojans: 659 Nestor and 884 Priamus. He also discovered 887 Alinda in 1918, which is now recognized as an Earth-crossing Amor asteroid (or sometimes classified as the namesake of its own Alinda family). Shortly after his last discovery (on February 6, 1932), his record 248 discoveries were beaten by his pupil Karl Wilhelm Reinmuth, on July 24, 1933.

List of discovered minor planets[edit]

323 Brucia 22 December 1891 list
325 Heidelberga 4 March 1892 list
328 Gudrun 18 March 1892 list
329 Svea 21 March 1892 list
330 Adalberta 2 February 1910 list
332 Siri 19 March 1892 list
333 Badenia 22 August 1892 list
334 Chicago 23 August 1892 list
339 Dorothea 25 September 1892 list
340 Eduarda 25 September 1892 list
341 California 25 September 1892 list
342 Endymion 17 October 1892 list
343 Ostara 15 November 1892 list
351 Yrsa 16 December 1892 list
352 Gisela 12 January 1893 list
353 Ruperto-Carola 16 January 1893 list
385 Ilmatar 1 March 1894 list
386 Siegena 1 March 1894 list
391 Ingeborg 1 November 1894 list
392 Wilhelmina 4 November 1894 list
393 Lampetia 4 November 1894 list
399 Persephone 23 February 1895 list
401 Ottilia 16 March 1895 list
407 Arachne 13 October 1895 list
408 Fama 13 October 1895 list
412 Elisabetha 7 January 1896 list
413 Edburga 7 January 1896 list
415 Palatia 7 February 1896 list
417 Suevia 6 May 1896 list
418 Alemannia 7 September 1896 list
419 Aurelia 7 September 1896 list
420 Bertholda 7 September 1896 list
421 Zahringia 7 September 1896 list
434 Hungaria 11 September 1898 list
435 Ella 11 September 1898 list[A]
436 Patricia 13 September 1898 list[A]
442 Eichsfeldia 15 February 1899 list[A]
443 Photographica 17 February 1899 list[A]
446 Aeternitas 27 October 1899 list[A]
447 Valentine 27 October 1899 list[A]
448 Natalie 27 October 1899 list[A]
449 Hamburga 31 October 1899 list[A]
450 Brigitta 10 October 1899 list[A]
455 Bruchsalia 22 May 1900 list[A]
456 Abnoba 4 June 1900 list[A]
457 Alleghenia 15 September 1900 list[A]
458 Hercynia 21 September 1900 list[A]
459 Signe 22 October 1900 list
460 Scania 22 October 1900 list
461 Saskia 22 October 1900 list
462 Eriphyla 22 October 1900 list
463 Lola 31 October 1900 list
464 Megaira 9 January 1901 list
465 Alekto 13 January 1901 list
466 Tisiphone 17 January 1901 list[B]
467 Laura 9 January 1901 list
468 Lina 18 January 1901 list
471 Papagena 7 June 1901 list
473 Nolli 13 February 1901 list
474 Prudentia 13 February 1901 list
480 Hansa 21 May 1901 list[B]
482 Petrina 3 March 1902 list
483 Seppina 4 March 1902 list
484 Pittsburghia 29 April 1902 list
488 Kreusa 26 June 1902 list[B]
490 Veritas 3 September 1902 list
491 Carina 3 September 1902 list
492 Gismonda 3 September 1902 list
493 Griseldis 7 September 1902 list
494 Virtus 7 October 1902 list
495 Eulalia 25 October 1902 list
496 Gryphia 25 October 1902 list
499 Venusia 24 December 1902 list
500 Selinur 16 January 1903 list
501 Urhixidur 18 January 1903 list
502 Sigune 19 January 1903 list
509 Iolanda 28 April 1903 list
512 Taurinensis 23 June 1903 list
513 Centesima 24 August 1903 list
514 Armida 24 August 1903 list
515 Athalia 20 September 1903 list
520 Franziska 27 October 1903 list[C]
522 Helga 10 January 1904 list
524 Fidelio 14 March 1904 list
526 Jena 14 March 1904 list
527 Euryanthe 20 March 1904 list
528 Rezia 20 March 1904 list
529 Preziosa 20 March 1904 list
530 Turandot 11 April 1904 list
531 Zerlina 12 April 1904 list
532 Herculina 20 April 1904 list
539 Pamina 2 August 1904 list
540 Rosamunde 3 August 1904 list
541 Deborah 4 August 1904 list
549 Jessonda 15 November 1904 list
550 Senta 16 November 1904 list
551 Ortrud 16 November 1904 list
552 Sigelinde 14 December 1904 list
553 Kundry 27 December 1904 list
555 Norma 14 January 1905 list
557 Violetta 26 January 1905 list
558 Carmen 9 February 1905 list
559 Nanon 8 March 1905 list
560 Delila 13 March 1905 list
561 Ingwelde 26 March 1905 list
562 Salome 3 April 1905 list
565 Marbachia 9 May 1905 list
570 Kythera 30 July 1905 list
573 Recha 19 September 1905 list
574 Reginhild 19 September 1905 list
575 Renate 19 September 1905 list
577 Rhea 20 October 1905 list
578 Happelia 1 November 1905 list
580 Selene 17 December 1905 list
586 Thekla 21 February 1906 list
587 Hypsipyle 22 February 1906 list
588 Achilles 22 February 1906 list
590 Tomyris 4 March 1906 list
592 Bathseba 18 March 1906 list
594 Mireille 27 March 1906 list
597 Bandusia 16 April 1906 list
598 Octavia 13 April 1906 list
601 Nerthus 21 June 1906 list
605 Juvisia 27 August 1906 list
609 Fulvia 24 September 1906 list
610 Valeska 26 September 1906 list
641 Agnes 8 September 1907 list
642 Clara 8 September 1907 list
659 Nestor 23 March 1908 list
683 Lanzia 23 July 1909 list
692 Hippodamia 5 November 1901 list[D]
707 Steina 22 December 1910 list
712 Boliviana 19 March 1911 list
733 Mocia 16 September 1912 list
798 Ruth 21 November 1914 list
800 Kressmannia 20 March 1915 list
801 Helwerthia 20 March 1915 list
802 Epyaxa 20 March 1915 list
805 Hormuthia 17 April 1915 list
806 Gyldenia 18 April 1915 list
807 Ceraskia 18 April 1915 list
809 Lundia 11 August 1915 list
810 Atossa 8 September 1915 list
811 Nauheima 8 September 1915 list
813 Baumeia 28 November 1915 list
815 Coppelia 2 February 1916 list
816 Juliana 8 February 1916 list
817 Annika 6 February 1916 list
818 Kapteynia 21 February 1916 list
819 Barnardiana 3 March 1916 list
820 Adriana 30 March 1916 list
821 Fanny 31 March 1916 list
822 Lalage 31 March 1916 list
823 Sisigambis 31 March 1916 list
826 Henrika 28 April 1916 list
831 Stateira 20 September 1916 list
832 Karin 20 September 1916 list
833 Monica 20 September 1916 list
834 Burnhamia 20 September 1916 list
835 Olivia 23 September 1916 list
836 Jole 23 September 1916 list
837 Schwarzschilda 23 September 1916 list
838 Seraphina 24 September 1916 list
839 Valborg 24 September 1916 list
840 Zenobia 25 September 1916 list
841 Arabella 1 October 1916 list
842 Kerstin 1 October 1916 list
845 Naema 16 November 1916 list
860 Ursina 22 January 1917 list
861 Aida 22 January 1917 list
862 Franzia 28 January 1917 list
863 Benkoela 9 February 1917 list
865 Zubaida 15 February 1917 list
866 Fatme 25 February 1917 list
868 Lova 26 April 1917 list
870 Manto 12 May 1917 list
871 Amneris 14 May 1917 list
872 Holda 21 May 1917 list
873 Mechthild 21 May 1917 list
874 Rotraut 25 May 1917 list
875 Nymphe 19 May 1917 list
879 Ricarda 22 July 1917 list
880 Herba 22 July 1917 list
881 Athene 22 July 1917 list
883 Matterania 14 September 1917 list
884 Priamus 22 September 1917 list
887 Alinda 3 January 1918 list
888 Parysatis 2 February 1918 list
889 Erynia 5 March 1918 list
890 Waltraut 11 March 1918 list
891 Gunhild 17 May 1918 list
892 Seeligeria 31 May 1918 list
893 Leopoldina 31 May 1918 list
894 Erda 4 June 1918 list
895 Helio 11 July 1918 list
896 Sphinx 1 August 1918 list
897 Lysistrata 3 August 1918 list
898 Hildegard 3 August 1918 list
899 Jokaste 3 August 1918 list
900 Rosalinde 10 August 1918 list
901 Brunsia 30 August 1918 list
904 Rockefellia 29 October 1918 list
907 Rhoda 12 November 1918 list
908 Buda 30 November 1918 list
914 Palisana 4 July 1919 list
919 Ilsebill 30 October 1918 list
927 Ratisbona 16 February 1920 list
946 Poësia 11 February 1921 list
949 Hel 11 March 1921 list
972 Cohnia 18 January 1922 list
1008 La Paz 31 October 1923 list
1021 Flammario 11 March 1924 list
1038 Tuckia 24 November 1924 list
1039 Sonneberga 24 November 1924 list
1053 Vigdis 16 November 1925 list
1069 Planckia 28 January 1927 list
1134 Kepler 25 September 1929 list
1141 Bohmia 4 January 1930 list
1169 Alwine 30 August 1930 list[E]
1178 Irmela 13 March 1931 list
1179 Mally 19 March 1931 list
1203 Nanna 5 October 1931 list
1214 Richilde 1 January 1932 list
1219 Britta 6 February 1932 list
1365 Henyey 9 September 1928 list
1514 Ricouxa 22 August 1906 list
1661 Granule 31 March 1916 list
1703 Barry 2 September 1930 list
1967 Menzel 1 November 1905 list
2017 Wesson 20 September 1903 list
2119 Schwall 30 August 1930 list[E]
2298 Cindijon 2 October 1915 list
2373 Immo 4 August 1929 list
2443 Tomeileen 24 January 1906 list
2483 Guinevere 17 August 1928 list
2533 Fechtig 3 November 1905 list
2650 Elinor 14 March 1931 list
2732 Witt 19 March 1926 list
3034 Climenhaga 24 September 1917 list
3202 Graff 3 January 1908 list
3396 Muazzez 15 October 1915 list
3626 Ohsaki 4 August 1929 list
3907 Kilmartin 14 August 1904 list
4588 Wislicenus 13 March 1931 list
4775 Hansen 3 October 1927 list
4809 Robertball 5 September 1928 list
5702 Morando 16 March 1931 list
5926 Schönfeld 4 August 1929 list
Co-discovery made with:
A A. Schwassmann
B L. Carnera
C P. Götz
D A. Kopff
E M. Ferrero

Awards and honors[edit]

The crater Wolf on the Moon is named after him, as is the asteroid 827 Wolfiana.

Other astronomers named Wolf[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Minor Planet Discoverers (by number)". Minor Planet Center. 4 September 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016. 
  2. ^ a b MacPherson, H. (1932). "Obituary: Max Wolf". The Observatory. 55: 355–359. Bibcode:1932Obs....55..355M. 
  3. ^ "Obituary Notices: Associates:- Wolf, Max". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 93: 236. February 1933. Bibcode:1933MNRAS..93..236.. doi:10.1093/mnras/93.4.236. 
  4. ^ a b c Tenn, Joseph S., (1994). "Max Wolf: The Twenty-Fifth Bruce Medalist" (PDF). Mercury. 23 (4): 27–28. 
  5. ^ Chartrand, Mark (September 1973). "A Fifty Year Anniversary of a Two Thousand Year Dream (The History of the Planetarium)". The Planetarian. 2 (3). International Planetarium Society. ISSN 0090-3213. Retrieved 2009-02-26 
  6. ^ Wolf, M. (April 1923). "Anzeige des Todes von Edward Emerson Barnard". Astronomische Nachrichten (in German). 218: 241. Bibcode:1923AN....218..241W. doi:10.1002/asna.19232181602. 
  7. ^ Wolf, M. (1919). "Katalog von 1053 staerker bewegten Fixsternen". Veroeffentlichungen der Badischen Sternwarte zu Heidelberg (in German). 7 (10): 195–219. Bibcode:1919VeHei...7..195W. 
  8. ^ Wolf, M. (July 1917). "Eigenbewegungssterne". Astronomische Nachrichten (in German). 204: 345. Bibcode:1917AN....204..345W. doi:10.1002/asna.19172042002. 
  9. ^ "Wolf". Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 

External links[edit]

Obituaries[edit]