Maarten Schmidt

Maarten Schmidt

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Maarten Schmidt is a Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

 who measured the distances of quasar
A quasi-stellar radio source is a very energetic and distant active galactic nucleus. Quasars are extremely luminous and were first identified as being high redshift sources of electromagnetic energy, including radio waves and visible light, that were point-like, similar to stars, rather than...


Born in Groningen, The Netherlands, Schmidt studied with Jan Hendrik Oort. He earned his Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 degree from Leiden Observatory
Leiden Observatory
Leiden Observatory is an astronomical observatory in the city of Leiden, Netherlands. It was established by Leiden University in 1633, to house the quadrant of Snellius, and is the oldest operating University observatory in the world Leiden Observatory (Sterrewacht Leiden in Dutch) is an...

 in 1956.

In 1959, he emigrated to the United States and went to work at the California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...

. In the beginning, he worked on theories about the mass distribution and dynamics of galaxies
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

. Of particular note from this period was his formulation of what has become known as the Schmidt law, which relates the density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 of interstellar gas to the rate of star formation
Star formation
Star formation is the process by which dense parts of molecular clouds collapse into a ball of plasma to form a star. As a branch of astronomy star formation includes the study of the interstellar medium and giant molecular clouds as precursors to the star formation process and the study of young...

 occurring in that gas. He later began a study of the light spectra of radio sources. In 1963, using the famous 200-inch reflector telescope at the Palomar Observatory
Palomar Observatory
Palomar Observatory is a privately owned observatory located in San Diego County, California, southeast of Pasadena's Mount Wilson Observatory, in the Palomar Mountain Range. At approximately elevation, it is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology...

, Schmidt identified the visible object corresponding to one of these radio sources, known as 3C 273 and also studied its spectrum
A spectrum is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum. The word saw its first scientific use within the field of optics to describe the rainbow of colors in visible light when separated using a prism; it has since been applied by...

. While its star-like appearance suggested it was relatively nearby, the spectrum of 3C 273 proved to have what was at the time a high redshift
In physics , redshift happens when light seen coming from an object is proportionally increased in wavelength, or shifted to the red end of the spectrum...

 of 0.158, showing that it lay far beyond the Milky Way
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

, and thus possessed an extraordinarily high luminosity
Luminosity is a measurement of brightness.-In photometry and color imaging:In photometry, luminosity is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to luminance, which is the density of luminous intensity in a given direction. The SI unit for luminance is candela per square metre.The luminosity function...

. Schmidt termed 3C 273 a "quasi-stellar" object or quasar; thousands have since been identified.


  • Helen B. Warner Prize
    Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy
    The Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy is awarded annually by the American Astronomical Society to a young astronomer for a significant contribution to observational or theoretical astronomy....

  • Front cover of Time
    Time (magazine)
    Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

    March 11, 1966
  • Henry Norris Russell Lectureship
    Henry Norris Russell Lectureship
    The Henry Norris Russell Lectureship is awarded each year by the American Astronomical Society in recognition of a lifetime of excellence in astronomical research.-Previous lecturers:This list of lecturers is from the American Astronomical Society's website....

  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    -History:In the early years, more than one medal was often awarded in a year, but by 1833 only one medal was being awarded per year. This caused a problem when Neptune was discovered in 1846, because many felt an award should jointly be made to John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier...

  • James Craig Watson Medal
    James Craig Watson Medal
    thumb|right|400px|James Craig Watson MedalThe James Craig Watson Medal was established by the bequest of James Craig Watson, and is awarded by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences for contributions to astronomy.The recipients have been:-External links:*...

  • Bruce Medal
    Bruce Medal
    The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal is awarded every year by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding lifetime contributions to astronomy. It is named after Catherine Wolfe Bruce, an American patroness of astronomy, and was first awarded in 1898...

  • Kavli Prize
    Kavli Prize
    The Kavli Prize was established in 2005 through a joint venture between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and The Kavli Foundation...

     for Astrophysics (2008)
  • Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
    Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
    The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters is a learned society based in Oslo, Norway.-History:The University of Oslo was established in 1811. The idea of a learned society in Christiania surfaced for the first time in 1841. The city of Throndhjem had no university, but had a learned...


Named after him
  • Asteroid
    Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

     10430 Martschmidt
    10430 Martschmidt
    - External links :*...

External links