AAS 195th Meeting, January 2000
Session 130. HAD: The Papers of the Century
Special Session Oral, Saturday, January 15, 2000, 2:00-5:00pm, Regency V

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[130.07] Walter Baade, Fritz Zwicky, and Rudolph Minkowski's Early Supernova Research, 1927 - 1973

D. E. Osterbrock (UCO/Lick Obs/UCSC)

Long before he ``discovered" the two stellar populations, Walter Baade was a pioneer in research on supernovae and their remnants. In 1927, while still in Germany, Baade emphasized what he called ``Hauptnovae" (chief novae) as highly luminous, potential distance indicators. He joined the Mount Wilson staff in 1931, bringing the ``secret" of the Schmidt camera with him, and encouraged Fritz Zwicky to carry out a supernova search with one at Palomar. Baade and Zwicky used the term ``supernova" in their 1933 joint paper. Zwicky began a systematic search in 1936, and Baade followed up with the 100-in reflector to derive light curves. He confirmed that Tycho's ``nova" of 1572 and the Crab nebula had been supernovae in our Galaxy. Baade advised N. U. Mayall, at Lick, on his spectroscopic study of the Crab nebula.

In 1933, after Hitler came to power, Rudolph Minkowski had to leave Germany. Baade managed to get him a Mount Wilson staff position. Minkowski then did the spectroscopic observations of supernovae, beginning in 1937. Within a few years he and Baade were able to distinguish type I and II supernovae. Baade's further work on supernovae included historical research in Latin, Italian, and German, as well as filter photography. He searched hard for a remnant of SN 1885 in M 31, but never succeeded in finding it.

After World War II the Crab nebula was found to be a strong radio source, and Baade and Minkowski used the 200-in to identify other supernova remnants, beginning with Cas A. Baade collaborated closely with Jan Oort and his student, Lo Woltjer, in their studies of the Crab nebula. After Baade retired in 1958, Minkowski continued supernova research for more than a decade; one of his favorite objects was the expanding Cygnus Loop.

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