Maximilian Franz Joseph Cornelius "Max" Wolf 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. Max Wolf was born in Germany on June 21, 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. 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.
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 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 with a grant of $10,000 from the American philanthropist Catherine Wolfe Bruce. Wolf 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 lenses and a fast f/5 focal ratio, became the observatory's primary research telescope. Wolf raised money for a 28 in 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 October 21, 1923. During his trip to America Wolf was interested in learning more about the new field of astrophotography, he met the American astronomer and astrophotographer E. E. Barnard, the two became lifelong correspondents, competitors and friends. Wolf wrote a long obituary for Barnard upon his death in 1923. 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 October 3, 1932, at the age of 69. He was survived by three sons. Wolf continued to discover them throughout his life, he 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 in April 1910, he discovered or co-discovered four supernovae: SN 1895A, SN 1909A, SN 1920A, with Reinmuth, SN 1926A.
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. Along with E. E. Barnard, Wolf applied astrophotography to the observation of stars; the Bruce double-astrograph was 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 identified by his name and catalog number. Among the stars he discovered is Wolf 359, a dim red dwarf, 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 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 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 replaced with more sensitive electronic photodetectors for astronomical surveys. In 1891, Wolf discovered his first asteroid, 323 Brucia, 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 increased. In time-exposure photographs, asteroids appear as short streaks due to their planetary motion with respect to fixed stars. Wolf discovered more than 200 asteroids in his lifetime. Among his many discoveries was 588 Achilles in 1906, as well as two other Trojans: 659 Nestor and 884 Priamus.
He discovered 887 Alinda in 1918, now recognized as an Earth-crossing Amor asteroid (or sometimes classified as
The astronomical unit is a unit of length the distance from Earth to the Sun. However, that distance varies as Earth orbits the Sun, from a maximum to a minimum and back again once a year. Conceived as the average of Earth's aphelion and perihelion, since 2012 it has been defined as 149597870700 metres or about 150 million kilometres; the astronomical unit is used for measuring distances within the Solar System or around other stars. It is a fundamental component in the definition of another unit of astronomical length, the parsec. A variety of unit symbols and abbreviations have been in use for the astronomical unit. In a 1976 resolution, the International Astronomical Union used the symbol A to denote a length equal to the astronomical unit. In the astronomical literature, the symbol AU was common. In 2006, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures recommended ua as the symbol for the unit. In the non-normative Annex C to ISO 80000-3, the symbol of the astronomical unit is "ua". In 2012, the IAU, noting "that various symbols are presently in use for the astronomical unit", recommended the use of the symbol "au".
In the 2014 revision of the SI Brochure, the BIPM used the unit symbol "au". Earth's orbit around the Sun is an ellipse; the semi-major axis of this elliptic orbit is defined to be half of the straight line segment that joins the perihelion and aphelion. The centre of the Sun lies on this straight line segment, but not at its midpoint; because ellipses are well-understood shapes, measuring the points of its extremes defined the exact shape mathematically, made possible calculations for the entire orbit as well as predictions based on observation. In addition, it mapped out the largest straight-line distance that Earth traverses over the course of a year, defining times and places for observing the largest parallax in nearby stars. Knowing Earth's shift and a star's shift enabled the star's distance to be calculated, but all measurements are subject to some degree of error or uncertainty, the uncertainties in the length of the astronomical unit only increased uncertainties in the stellar distances.
Improvements in precision have always been a key to improving astronomical understanding. Throughout the twentieth century, measurements became precise and sophisticated, more dependent on accurate observation of the effects described by Einstein's theory of relativity and upon the mathematical tools it used. Improving measurements were continually checked and cross-checked by means of improved understanding of the laws of celestial mechanics, which govern the motions of objects in space; the expected positions and distances of objects at an established time are calculated from these laws, assembled into a collection of data called an ephemeris. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory HORIZONS System provides one of several ephemeris computation services. In 1976, in order to establish a yet more precise measure for the astronomical unit, the IAU formally adopted a new definition. Although directly based on the then-best available observational measurements, the definition was recast in terms of the then-best mathematical derivations from celestial mechanics and planetary ephemerides.
It stated that "the astronomical unit of length is that length for which the Gaussian gravitational constant takes the value 0.01720209895 when the units of measurement are the astronomical units of length and time". Equivalently, by this definition, one AU is "the radius of an unperturbed circular Newtonian orbit about the sun of a particle having infinitesimal mass, moving with an angular frequency of 0.01720209895 radians per day". Subsequent explorations of the Solar System by space probes made it possible to obtain precise measurements of the relative positions of the inner planets and other objects by means of radar and telemetry; as with all radar measurements, these rely on measuring the time taken for photons to be reflected from an object. Because all photons move at the speed of light in vacuum, a fundamental constant of the universe, the distance of an object from the probe is calculated as the product of the speed of light and the measured time. However, for precision the calculations require adjustment for things such as the motions of the probe and object while the photons are transiting.
In addition, the measurement of the time itself must be translated to a standard scale that accounts for relativistic time dilation. Comparison of the ephemeris positions with time measurements expressed in the TDB scale leads to a value for the speed of light in astronomical units per day. By 2009, the IAU had updated its standard measures to reflect improvements, calculated the speed of light at 173.1446326847 AU/d. In 1983, the International Committee for Weights and Measures modified the International System of Units to make the metre defined as the distance travelled in a vacuum by light in 1/299792458 second; this replaced the previous definition, valid between 1960 and 1983, that the metre equalled a certain number of wavelengths of a certain emission line of krypton-86. The speed of light could be expressed as c0 = 299792458 m/s, a standard adopted by the IERS numerical standards. From this definition and the 2009 IAU standard, the time for light to traverse an AU is found to be
In astronomy, a light curve is a graph of light intensity of a celestial object or region, as a function of time. The light is in a particular frequency interval or band. Light curves can be periodic, as in the case of eclipsing binaries, Cepheid variables, other periodic variables, transiting extrasolar planets, or aperiodic, like the light curve of a nova, a cataclysmic variable star, a supernova or a microlensing event or binary as observed during occultation events; the study of the light curve, together with other observations, can yield considerable information about the physical process that produces it or constrain the physical theories about it. Graphs of the apparent magnitude of a variable star over time are used to visualise and analyse their behaviour. Although the categorisation of variable star types is done from their spectral properties, the amplitudes and regularity of their brightness changes are still important factors; some types such as Cepheids have regular light curves with the same period and shape in each cycle.
Others such as Mira variables have somewhat less regular light curves with large amplitudes of several magnitudes, while the semiregular variables are less regular still and have smaller amplitudes. The shapes of variable star light curves give valuable information about the underlying physical processes producing the brightness changes. For eclipsing variables, the shape of the light curve indicates the degree of totality, the relative sizes of the stars, their relative surface brightnesses, it may show the eccentricity of the orbit and distortions in the shape of the two stars. For pulsating stars, the amplitude or period of the pulsations can be related to the luminosity of the star, the light curve shape can be an indicator of the pulsation mode. Light curves from supernovae can be indicative of the type of supernova. Although supernova types are defined on the basis of their spectra, each has typical light curve shapes. Type I supernovae have light curves with a sharp maximum and decline, while Type II supernovae have less sharp maxima.
Light curves are helpful for classification of faint supernovae and for the determination of sub-types. For example, the type II-P have similar spectra to the type II-L but are distinguished by a light curve where the decline flattens out for several weeks or months before resuming its fade. In planetary science, a light curve can be used to derive the rotation period of a minor planet, moon, or comet nucleus. From the Earth there is no way to resolve a small object in the Solar System in the most powerful of telescopes, since the apparent angular size of the object is smaller than one pixel in the detector. Thus, astronomers measure the amount of light produced by an object as a function of time; the time separation of peaks in the light curve gives an estimate of the rotational period of the object. The difference between the maximum and minimum brightnesses can be due to the shape of the object, or to bright and dark areas on its surface. For example, an asymmetrical asteroid's light curve has more pronounced peaks, while a more spherical object's light curve will be flatter.
This allows astronomers to infer information about the spin of asteroids. The Asteroid Lightcurve Database of the Collaborative Asteroid Lightcurve Link uses a numeric code to assess the quality of a period solution for minor planet light curves, its quality code parameter "U" ranges from 0 to 3: U = 0 → Result proven incorrect U = 1 → Result based on fragmentary light curve, may be wrong. U = 2 → Result based on less than full coverage. Period may be wrong by ambiguous. U = 3 → Secure result within the precision given. No ambiguity. U = n.a. → Not available. Incomplete or inconclusive result. A trailing plus sign or minus sign is used to indicate a better or worse quality than the unsigned value; the occultation light curve is characterised as binary, where the light from the star is terminated instantaneously, remains constant for the duration, is reinstated instantaneously. The duration is equivalent to the length of a chord across the occulting body. Circumstances where the transitions are not instantaneous are.
When the occulted body is large, e.g. a star like Antares the transitions are gradual. When the occulting body has an atmosphere, e.g. the moon TitanThe observations are recorded using video equipment and the disappearance and reappearance timed using a GPS disciplined Video Time Inserter. Occultation light curves are archived at the VizieR service. Light curve inversion is a mathematical technique used to model the surfaces of rotating objects from their brightness variations; this can be used to image starspots or asteroid surface albedos. Microlensing is a process where small and low-mass astronomical objects cause a brief small increase in the brightness of a more distant object; this is caused by the small relativistic effect as larger gravitational lenses, but allows the detection and analysis of otherwise-invisible stellar and planetary mass objects. The properties of these objects can be inferred from the shape of the lensing light curve. For example, PA-99-N2 is a microlensing event that may have been due to a star in the Andromeda galaxy that has an exoplanet.
The AAVSO online light curve generator can plot light curves for thousands of variable stars The Open Astronomy
G-type asteroids are a uncommon type of carbonaceous asteroid that makes up 5% of asteroids. The most notable asteroid in this class is 1 Ceres. Similar to the C-type objects, but contain a strong ultraviolet absorption feature below 0.5 μm. An absorption feature around 0.7 μm may be present, indicative of phyllosilicate minerals such as clays or mica. In the SMASS classification the G-type corresponds to the Cgh and Cg types, depending on the presence or absence of the absorption feature at 0.7 μm. The G-type, C-type and some rare types are sometimes collected together into a wider C-group of carbonaceous asteroids. Asteroid spectral types D. J. Tholen Asteroid taxonomic classifications in Asteroids III
The asteroid belt is the circumstellar disc in the Solar System located between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. It is occupied by numerous irregularly shaped bodies called minor planets; the asteroid belt is termed the main asteroid belt or main belt to distinguish it from other asteroid populations in the Solar System such as near-Earth asteroids and trojan asteroids. About half the mass of the belt is contained in the four largest asteroids: Ceres, Vesta and Hygiea; the total mass of the asteroid belt is 4% that of the Moon, or 22% that of Pluto, twice that of Pluto's moon Charon. Ceres, the asteroid belt's only dwarf planet, is about 950 km in diameter, whereas 4 Vesta, 2 Pallas, 10 Hygiea have mean diameters of less than 600 km; the remaining bodies range down to the size of a dust particle. The asteroid material is so thinly distributed that numerous unmanned spacecraft have traversed it without incident. Nonetheless, collisions between large asteroids do occur, these can produce an asteroid family whose members have similar orbital characteristics and compositions.
Individual asteroids within the asteroid belt are categorized by their spectra, with most falling into three basic groups: carbonaceous and metal-rich. The asteroid belt formed from the primordial solar nebula as a group of planetesimals. Planetesimals are the smaller precursors of the protoplanets. Between Mars and Jupiter, gravitational perturbations from Jupiter imbued the protoplanets with too much orbital energy for them to accrete into a planet. Collisions became too violent, instead of fusing together, the planetesimals and most of the protoplanets shattered; as a result, 99.9% of the asteroid belt's original mass was lost in the first 100 million years of the Solar System's history. Some fragments found their way into the inner Solar System, leading to meteorite impacts with the inner planets. Asteroid orbits continue to be appreciably perturbed whenever their period of revolution about the Sun forms an orbital resonance with Jupiter. At these orbital distances, a Kirkwood gap occurs. Classes of small Solar System bodies in other regions are the near-Earth objects, the centaurs, the Kuiper belt objects, the scattered disc objects, the sednoids, the Oort cloud objects.
On 22 January 2014, ESA scientists reported the detection, for the first definitive time, of water vapor on Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. The detection was made by using the far-infrared abilities of the Herschel Space Observatory; the finding was unexpected because comets, not asteroids, are considered to "sprout jets and plumes". According to one of the scientists, "The lines are becoming more and more blurred between comets and asteroids." In 1596, Johannes Kepler predicted “Between Mars and Jupiter, I place a planet” in his Mysterium Cosmographicum. While analyzing Tycho Brahe's data, Kepler thought that there was too large a gap between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. In an anonymous footnote to his 1766 translation of Charles Bonnet's Contemplation de la Nature, the astronomer Johann Daniel Titius of Wittenberg noted an apparent pattern in the layout of the planets. If one began a numerical sequence at 0 included 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, etc. doubling each time, added four to each number and divided by 10, this produced a remarkably close approximation to the radii of the orbits of the known planets as measured in astronomical units provided one allowed for a "missing planet" between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
In his footnote, Titius declared "But should the Lord Architect have left that space empty? Not at all."When William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781, the planet's orbit matched the law perfectly, leading astronomers to conclude that there had to be a planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. On January 1, 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi, chair of astronomy at the University of Palermo, found a tiny moving object in an orbit with the radius predicted by this pattern, he dubbed it "Ceres", after the Roman goddess of the patron of Sicily. Piazzi believed it to be a comet, but its lack of a coma suggested it was a planet. Thus, the aforementioned pattern, now known as the Titius–Bode law, predicted the semi-major axes of all eight planets of the time. Fifteen months Heinrich Olbers discovered a second object in the same region, Pallas. Unlike the other known planets and Pallas remained points of light under the highest telescope magnifications instead of resolving into discs. Apart from their rapid movement, they appeared indistinguishable from stars.
Accordingly, in 1802, William Herschel suggested they be placed into a separate category, named "asteroids", after the Greek asteroeides, meaning "star-like". Upon completing a series of observations of Ceres and Pallas, he concluded, Neither the appellation of planets nor that of comets, can with any propriety of language be given to these two stars... They resemble small stars so much. From this, their asteroidal appearance, if I take my name, call them Asteroids. By 1807, further investigation revealed two new objects in the region: Vesta; the burning of Lilienthal in the Napoleonic wars, where the main body of work had been done, brought this first period of discovery to a close. Despite Herschel's coinage, for several decades it remained common practice to refer to these objects as planets and to prefix t
An asteroid family is a population of asteroids that share similar proper orbital elements, such as semimajor axis and orbital inclination. The members of the families are thought to be fragments of past asteroid collisions. An asteroid family is a more specific term than asteroid group whose members, while sharing some broad orbital characteristics, may be otherwise unrelated to each other. Large prominent families contain several hundred recognized asteroids. Small, compact families may have only about ten identified members. About 33% to 35% of asteroids in the main belt are family members. There are about 20 to 30 reliably recognized families, with several tens of less certain groupings. Most asteroid families are found in the main asteroid belt, although several family-like groups such as the Pallas family, Hungaria family, the Phocaea family lie at smaller semi-major axis or larger inclination than the main belt. One family has been identified associated with the dwarf planet Haumea; some studies have tried to find evidence of collisional families among the trojan asteroids, but at present the evidence is inconclusive.
The families are thought to form as a result of collisions between asteroids. In many or most cases the parent body was shattered, but there are several families which resulted from a large cratering event which did not disrupt the parent body; such cratering families consist of a single large body and a swarm of asteroids that are much smaller. Some families have complex internal structures which are not satisfactorily explained at the moment, but may be due to several collisions in the same region at different times. Due to the method of origin, all the members have matching compositions for most families. Notable exceptions are those families. Asteroid families are thought to have lifetimes of the order of a billion years, depending on various factors; this is shorter than the Solar System's age, so few if any are relics of the early Solar System. Decay of families occurs both because of slow dissipation of the orbits due to perturbations from Jupiter or other large bodies, because of collisions between asteroids which grind them down to small bodies.
Such small asteroids become subject to perturbations such as the Yarkovsky effect that can push them towards orbital resonances with Jupiter over time. Once there, they are rapidly ejected from the asteroid belt. Tentative age estimates have been obtained for some families, ranging from hundreds of millions of years to less than several million years as for the compact Karin family. Old families are thought to contain few small members, this is the basis of the age determinations, it is supposed that many old families have lost all the smaller and medium-sized members, leaving only a few of the largest intact. A suggested example of such old family remains are 113 Amalthea pair. Further evidence for a large number of past families comes from analysis of chemical ratios in iron meteorites; these show that there must have once been at least 50 to 100 parent bodies large enough to be differentiated, that have since been shattered to expose their cores and produce the actual meteorites. When the orbital elements of main belt asteroids are plotted, a number of distinct concentrations are seen against the rather uniform distribution of non-family background asteroids.
These concentrations are the asteroid families. Interlopers are asteroids classified as family members based on their so-called proper orbital elements but having spectroscopic properties distinct from the bulk of the family, suggesting that they, contrary to the true family members, did not originate from the same parent body that once fragmented upon a collisional impact. Speaking and their membership are identified by analysing the proper orbital elements rather than the current osculating orbital elements, which fluctuate on timescales of tens of thousands of years; the proper elements are related constants of motion that remain constant for times of at least tens of millions of years, longer. The Japanese astronomer Kiyotsugu Hirayama pioneered the estimation of proper elements for asteroids, first identified several of the most prominent families in 1918. In his honor, asteroid families are sometimes called Hirayama families; this applies to the five prominent groupings discovered by him.
Present day computer-assisted searches have identified more than a hundred asteroid families. The most prominent algorithms have been the hierarchical clustering method, which looks for groupings with small nearest-neighbour distances in orbital element space, wavelet analysis, which builds a density-of-asteroids map in orbital element space, looks for density peaks; the boundaries of the families are somewhat vague because at the edges they blend into the background density of asteroids in the main belt. For this reason the number of members among discovered asteroids is only known and membership is uncertain for asteroids near the edges. Additionally, some interlopers from the heterogeneous background asteroid population are expected in the central regions of a family. Since the true family members caused by the collision are expected to have similar compositions, most such interlopers can in principle be recognised by spectral properties which do not matc
C-type asteroids are the most common variety, forming around 75% of known asteroids. They are distinguished by a low albedo because their composition includes a large amount of carbon, in addition to rocks and minerals, they occur most at the outer edge of the asteroid belt, 3.5 astronomical units from the Sun, where 80% of the asteroids are of this type, whereas only 40% of asteroids at 2 AU from the Sun are C-type. The proportion of C-types may be greater than this, because C-types are much darker than most other asteroid types except for D-types and others that are at the extreme outer edge of the asteroid belt. Asteroids of this class have spectra similar to those of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites; the latter are close in chemical composition to the Sun and the primitive solar nebula, except for the absence of hydrogen and other volatiles. Hydrated minerals are present. C-type asteroids are dark, with albedos in the 0.03 to 0.10 range. Whereas a number of S-type asteroids can be viewed with binoculars at opposition the largest C-type asteroids require a small telescope.
The brightest C-type asteroid is 324 Bamberga, but that object's high eccentricity means it reaches its maximum magnitude. Their spectra contain moderately strong ultraviolet absorption at wavelengths below about 0.4 μm to 0.5 μm, while at longer wavelengths they are featureless but reddish. The so-called "water" absorption feature of around 3 μm, which can be an indication of water content in minerals, is present; the largest unequivocally C-type asteroid is 10 Hygiea, although the SMASS classification places the largest asteroid, 1 Ceres, here as well, because that scheme lacks a G-type. In the Tholen classification, the C-type is grouped along with three less numerous types into a wider C-group of carbonaceous asteroids which contains: B-type C-type F-type G-type In the SMASS classification, the wider C-group contains the types: B-type corresponding to the Tholen B and F-types a core C-type for asteroids having the most "typical" spectra in the group Cg and Cgh types corresponding to the Tholen G-type Ch type with an absorption feature around 0.7μm Cb type corresponding to transition objects between the SMASS C and B types Asteroid spectral types