Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Spectral Classification of Stars over the last 200, 100, 75 years and in the future

  • Christopher J. Corbally (a1) and Richard O. Gray (a2)


This year 2018 has great historical and current significance for stellar spectral classification. Two hundred years ago in Reggio Emilia, Italy, was born Angelo Secchi, a pioneer of observing and classifying the spectra of stars. At the beginning of the IAU, almost a hundred years ago, one of its original Commissions was entitled the Spectral Classification of Stars, from which was generated Commission 45, Spectral Classification and Multi-band Colour Indices. And seventy-five years ago, was published the system-changing MKK, An Atlas of Stellar Spectra. Through this necessarily brief, historical view we shall recall how spectral classification, supported internationally by the IAU, continually updated its techniques, while remaining anchored to standards. This has ensured that the MK classification process stays very relevant to the initial characterizing of stars in the 21st century era of large spectral surveys.



Hide All
Gray, R. O., Corbally, C. J., DeCat, P., Fu, J.N., Ren, A. B., Shi, J.R., Luo, A. L., Zhang, H.T., Wu, Y., Cao, Z., Li, G., Zhang, Y., Hou, Y., & Wang, Y. 2016, AJ 151, 13
Kirkpatrick, J. D., Reid, N. I., Liebert, J., Cutri, R. M., Nelson, B., Beichman, C. A., Dahn, C. C., & Monet, D. G. 1999, ApJ 519, 802
Morgan, W. W., Keenan, P. C., & Kellman, E. 1943, An Atlas of Stellar Spectra. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
O’Connell, D. J. ed. 1958, Stellar Populations. Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Co.
Struve, M. O. 1950, in Transactions of the IAU VII, 289
MathJax is a JavaScript display engine for mathematics. For more information see



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed