Wolf, Maximilian

Maximilian Franz Joseph Cornelius Wolf (June 21, 1863 – October 3, 1932) was a German astronomer and pioneer of astrophotography. He is accredited with the discovery of a large quantity of asteroids.

Heidelberg, Germany was his birthplace. He received his PhD at the University of Heidelberg in 1888, and in 1890 he took employment in that institution.

Beginning in 1891, Wolf discovered more than 200 asteroids with the Bruce double-astrograph, while working at the Landessternwarte Heidelberg-Königstuhl. He named the first of his discoveries, 323 Brucia, after Catherine Wolfe Bruce, for her $10,000 contribution for the construction of the telescope. He was one of this first to explore asteroids utilizing astrophotographic techniques, instead of older visual methods. Asteroid discovery rapidly increased with this technique. Asteroids look like short streaks due to their planetary motion with respect to preset stars, in time-exposure photographs.

He discovered the first Trojan asteroid, 588 Achilles, in 1906, along with two additional Trojans: 659 Nestor and 884 Priamus. In 1918, he discovered the Earth-crossing Amor asteroid, or sometimes called 887 Alinda. His 248 record of discovery was beaten by Karl Wilhelm Reinmuth on July 24, 1933, not long after his last discovery on February 6, 1932.

He was discovered or was at least involved with the discovery of many comets, such as 14P/Wolf and 43P/Wolf-Harrington, and also four supernovae: SN 1895A, 1909A, 1920A, and 1926A.

One of the closest stars to our solar system, a red dwarf star named Wolf 359, he also discovered. Wolf-Rayet stars, however, were not discovered by him, but rather by French astronomer Charles Wolf.

Wolf made a proposition to the Carl Zeiss optics firm in 1910 suggesting the creation of a new instrument, the planetarium. World War I activity caused the postponement of its development, but the Zeiss company proceeded with plans after peace was restored. The completed planetarium opened in 1923.

He died in Heidelberg in 1932.

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