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Who first published a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram? Hertzsprung or Russell? Answer: neither!

14 Oct 2009, 23:00 UTC
Who first published a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram? Hertzsprung or Russell? Answer: neither!
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Most astronomers, when asked the question of who first published a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram would probably guess that it was Ejnar Hertzsprung, the famous Danish astronomer who went to Göttingen in 1908 to visit Karl Schwarzschild. In 1911, Hertzsprung published colour-magnitude diagrams for both the Hyades and Pleiades clusters. A few might guess that it was Henry Norris Russell at Princeton, who independently published a diagram of absolute visual magnitude against Harvard spectral type for nearby field stars using trigonometric parallaxes. However Russell’s first publication of his diagram was in 1914, several years after Hertzsprung.

Whether you answer Hertzsprung or Russell, your answer is wrong!

The first diagram of magnitude versus spectral type was published by Hans Rosenberg (1879-1940) at Göttingen. Rosenberg was a colleague of Schwarzschild, and his diagram of the Pleiades star cluster showing photographic apparent magnitude against an index based on the strength of the Balmer lines Hδ and Hζ relative to the K line of calcium, was submitted in June 1910 to the Astronomische Nachrichten. It was the first published ‘Hertzsprung-Russell’ diagram. This interesting fact has been brought to light by Leos Ondra in the Czech Republic. A full English translation of Rosenberg’s paper can ...

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