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8 - Spectral classification: From the Henry Draper Catalogue to the MK system and beyond

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2014

John B. Hearnshaw
Affiliation:
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
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Summary

The first International Astronomical Union meeting in Rome, May 1922

Solar Union in Bonn in 1913 Frank Schlesinger had been able to conclude, as a result of the questionnaire [1] to 28 prominent spectroscopists from the Committee on the Classification of Stellar Spectra, that ‘… the preference for the Draper classification is nearly unanimous, but… the general feeling among investigators is opposed at the present time of any system as a permanent one’ [2]. (The ISU questionnaire of 1911 is discussed in Section 5.10.)

In practice 1913 represents the point when the Harvard system was universally adopted. Nine years later, at the first meeting of the newly formed International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Rome, in May 1922, the earlier temporary acceptance of this system was formally and unanimously approved as permanent. The chairman of the Spectral Classification Committee was then Walter Adams. By this time six volumes of the Henry Draper Catalogue had been published and the classification of nearly a quarter of a million stars had been completed by Annie Cannon six years previously. The adoption of the Harvard system was therefore no longer an issue: the Adams report prescribed that ‘the Draper Classification or “Harvard System” … should be the basis on which any further extensions should be built. Classification on other and different systems should be abandoned permanently’ [3], although it was conceded that in ‘cases of great uncertainty Secchi's types may be employed’.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Analysis of Starlight
Two Centuries of Astronomical Spectroscopy
, pp. 152 - 192
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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