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Max Wolf

Max Wolf German astronomer

German astronomer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German astronomer
Known for discoverer of asteroids
A.K.A. Maximilian Franz Joseph Cornelius Wolf
Was Astronomer Photographer Professor Educator
From Germany
Type Academia Arts Science
Gender male
Birth 21 June 1863, Heidelberg, Germany
Death 3 October 1932, Heidelberg, Germany (aged 69 years)
Star sign CancerCancer
Family
Mother: Elise Wolf
Father: Franz Wolf
Spouse: Gisela Wolf
Children: Franz Wolf
The details
Biography
Minor planets discovered: 248 
see § List of discovered minor planets

Maximilian Franz Joseph Cornelius Wolf (21 June 1863 – 3 October 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

Max Wolf was born in Heidelberg, Germany on 21 June 1863, the son of medical doctor 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 was credited with his first astronomical discovery, comet 14P/Wolf, in 1884.

Life at the university

Wolf attended his local university and, in 1888, at the age of 25, 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.

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 not only a capable supervisor but also a successful fundraiser. 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. Wolf also raised money for a 28 in (71 cm) reflector telescope, the first for the observatory, used for spectroscopy.

In 1910 Wolf proposed to the Carl Zeiss optics firm the creation of a new instrument which would become known as the planetarium. World War I intervened before the invention 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 21 October 1923.

During his trip to America Wolf was interested in learning more about the relatively new field of astrophotography. He met the American astronomer and astrophotographer E.E. Barnard, and the two became lifelong correspondents, competitors, collaborators and friends. Wolf wrote a long obituary for Barnard upon his death in 1923.

Later life and death

Heidelberg University became well known for astronomy under Wolf's leadership. Wolf himself was an active researcher, contributing numerous papers in many areas of astronomy up to the end of his life. He died in Heidelberg on 3 October 1932, at the age of 69. He was survived by his widow and three sons.

Comets and novae

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. Wolf 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.

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

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 of the time. In collaboration with E. E. Barnard, Wolf proved, by careful photographic analysis, that dark nebulae were huge clouds of fine opaque dust.

Star catalog

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. 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. 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. 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. The methods used by E. E. Barnard and Wolf were continued by Frank Elmore Ross and George Van Biesbroeck through the mid-20th century. Since that time photographic plates have been gradually replaced with more sensitive electronic photodetectors for astronomical surveys.

Asteroids

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. Wolf discovered 248 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). Wolf's then-record number of discoveries was surpassed by his pupil Karl Wilhelm Reinmuth on 24 July 1933.

List of discovered minor planets

Source: "Discovery Circumstances: Numbered Minor Planets (1)-(5000)". Minor Planet Center. International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 31 May 2019.

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

Awards and honors

  • Prix Jules Janssen, the highest award of the Société astronomique de France, the French astronomical society, in 1912.
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1914.
  • Bruce Medal in 1930.

The lunar crater Wolf as well as the main-belt asteroids 827 Wolfiana and 1217 Maximiliana were named in his honor.

Minor planet 1152 Pawona is named after both Johann Palisa and Max Wolf, in recognition of their cooperation. The name was proposed by Swedish astronomer Bror Ansgar Asplind. Pawona is a combination of "Palisa" and "Wolf" (Pa, Wo) joined with a Latin feminine suffix.

Other astronomers named Wolf

  • Marek Wolf, a Czech astronomer who is also a discoverer of minor planets. He is credited as "M. Wolf" by the Minor Planet Center, while the discoveries by Max Wolf are credited with "M. F. Wolf".
  • Charles Wolf, a French astronomer and co-discoverer of the Wolf-Rayet stars.
  • German astronomers Christian Wolf and Ulrich Wolff (amateur from Berlin), as well as American astronomer Chris Wolfe have also discovered minor planets.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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Reference sources
References
http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/lists/MPDiscsNum.html
https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1932Obs....55..355M
https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1933MNRAS..93..236.
//doi.org/10.1093%2Fmnras%2F93.4.236
http://www.phys-astro.sonoma.edu/brucemedalists/wolf/WolfBio.pdf
https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1994Mercu..23d..27T
http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?page=a_chartrand1973
//www.worldcat.org/issn/0090-3213
https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1923AN....218..241W
//doi.org/10.1002%2Fasna.19232181602
https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1919VeHei...7..195W
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