Palisa, Johann (1848–1925)

Johann Palisa was an Austrian astronomer who discovered 121 asteroids , all through visual observation without the aid of photography, and published two catalogs containing the positions of 4,700 stars. He remains the most successful visual discoverer in the history of minor planet research.


Johann Palisa


Palisa found his first asteroid, subsequently named 136 Austria, on March 18, 1874, using a 6-inch refractor at the Austrian Naval Observatory in Pola, Istria. After discovering 27 more objects in Pola, he was offered a position in Vienna where he had access to the new large refractor (at that time the largest telescope in the world). The last asteroid he found was 1073 Gellivara, in 1923.


In 1883, Palisa joined the expedition of the French Academy to observe the total solar eclipse on May 6 of that year. During the eclipse, he searched for the putative planet Vulcan, which was supposed to circle the Sun within the orbit of Mercury. In addition to observing the eclipse, Palisa collected insects for the Natural History Museum i