History of Astrophysics in Kiel

Astronomy at CAU Kiel can look back at an over threehundred years old history.

Since the founding year of the university (1665) Samuel Reyher lectures - besides mathematics and law - also astronomy. Between 1769 and 1820 there was the first observatory (in a tower of Kiel castle); 1872 the observatory of Altona (western part of Hamburg) was moved to Kiel, where it stayed until 1938.

Carl Vogel observes the solar rotation from Doppler effect in spectral lines

Kiel has also an impact on the progress in astrophysics in todays sense: Carl Vogel - later the leader of the astrophysical observatory in Potsdam - works from 1870 to 1874 at the private observatory of the chamberlain of Bülow at the manor Bothkamp approximately 20 km south of Kiel. He is one of the first to make visual spectroscopy at stars. In 1871 he achieves to observe the rotation of the sun from the Doppler effect in spectral lines.

At its closure the observatory of Bothkamp left some of its instrument and the library to the observatory in Kiel. This is why it can be accounted some reason and together with the observatory of Altona to the precursor of the institute today.

Alfred Unsöld, longtime head of the astrophysics in Kiel

The todays form and its good international reputation of the astrophysics in Kiel is a major contribution of A. Unsöld. He lead the institute from 1932 until 1973. Together with many scholars, Unsöld can be counted to the founders of the modern theory of stellar atmospheres.

Wilhelm Wirtz detects the spiral nebulae outside the galaxy, which expand relatively to the sun

The younger research focus on extragalactical astrophysics is also part of Kiel history. After moving from Strasbourg to Kiel observatory as an astronomer more than 90 years ago, Carl Wilhelm Wirtz continued his research on spiral nebulae. In 1918, he came to the conclusion that they are not part of our own Milky Way and build a system, which expands relatively to the sun.

The different fields of work are complementing each other, since the analysis of stars, the determination of the abundance of the elements, its distribution and its kinematic is tightly connected to the structure and evolution of Galaxies.