Stewart Sharpless

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Stewart Sharpless (March 29, 1926 – January 19, 2013)[1][2] was an American astronomer who carried out fundamental work on the structure of the Milky Way galaxy.

As a graduate student at Yerkes Observatory he worked under William Morgan with fellow graduate student Don Osterbrock.[3] He helped Harold Johnson and Morgan with calculations used to help define the UBV photometric system.[4] In 1952, Sharpless and Osterbrock published their observations that demonstrated the spiral structure of the Milky Way by estimating the distances to H II regions and young hot stars. [5] For a while Sharpless was at Mount Wilson Observatory where he worked on galaxy photography with Walter Baade and Edwin Hubble.[6]

In 1953 Sharpless joined the staff of the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station.[6] Here he surveyed and cataloged H II regions of the Milky Way Galaxy using the images from the Palomar Sky Survey. From this work Sharpless published his catalog of H II regions in two editions, the first in 1953 with 142 nebula.[7] The second and final edition was published in 1959 with 313 nebulae[8] (see Sharpless catalog).

Stewart Sharpless was before his death a retired Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester.


  1. ^ Stewart Lane Sharpless Archived 2014-03-10 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Sharpless, Stewart Lane
  3. ^ Shirley K. Cohen, Interview with Donald E. Osterbrock, Feb 10, 2003, California Institute of Technology Archives
  4. ^ Johnson, H. L.; Morgan, W. W. (1951). "On the Color-Magnitude Diagram of the Pleiades". The Astrophysical Journal. 114: 543. Bibcode:1951ApJ...114..522J. doi:10.1086/145496. Many of the computations were carried out by Mr. Stewart Shaprless and Mrs. Mildred Provin.
  5. ^ Sheehan, William (2008). "W. W. Morgan and the Discovery of the Spiral Arm Structure of our Galaxy". arXiv:1112.0243 [physics.hist-ph].
  6. ^ a b Steven, Dick (2002). Sky and Ocean Joined: The U.S. Naval Observatory, 1830-2000. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81599-4.
  7. ^ Stewart Sharpless, A Catalogue of Emission Nebulae Near the Galactic Plane, Astrophysical Journal, vol. 118, p.362, 1953
  8. ^ Stewart Sharpless, A Catalogue of H II Regions, Astrophysical Journal Supplement, vol. 4, p.257, 1959

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