Olbers, Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus
Olbers, Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus(hīn`rĭkh vĭl`hĕlm mätĕ`o͝os ôl`bərs), 1758–1840, German astronomer and physician. He originated (1797) the first satisfactory method for calculating the orbits of comets, but despite the fame it brought him, he remained an amateur astronomer and became a physician. However, he continued his research on comets and discovered several. He was the first to detect the comet of 1815 (Comet Olbers, period 72.7 years). He also discovered two asteroids, PallasPallas
, in astronomy, 2d asteroid to be discovered. It was found in 1802 by H. Olbers. The second largest asteroid, it has a diameter of c.300 mi (480 km). Its orbit has a semimajor axis of 2.78 astronomical units and a period of 1,684 days.
..... Click the link for more information. (1802) and VestaVesta
, in astronomy, the fourth asteroid to be discovered. It was found in 1807 by H. Olbers. It is the third largest asteroid in size, with a diameter of c.326 mi (525 km). Its average distance from the sun is 2.36 astronomical units, and the period of its orbit is 1,325 days.
..... Click the link for more information. (1807). Considering their orbits and those of the other asteroids then known, Olbers concluded that they are fragments of a disrupted planet that had formerly revolved around the sun.
He is best remembered for Olbers' paradox: "Why is the sky dark at night?" Assuming that space is infinite and filled with stars, he suggested, the entire sky should be as bright as the surface of the sun. The question had originally been raised by KeplerKepler, Johannes
, 1571–1630, German astronomer. From his student days at the Univ. of Tübingen, he was influenced by the Copernican teachings. From 1593 to 1598 he was professor of mathematics at Graz and while there wrote his Mysterium cosmographicum (1596).
..... Click the link for more information. . Others offered one of several incorrect resolutions to the paradox, suggesting that absorbing clouds obscured our view of the distant stars. The correct explanation is that our universe is finite both in time and place, and the total amount of matter and energy is far too small to light up the night sky.