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Luboš Kohoutek

lovec komét Luboš Kohoutek

Luboš Kohoutek,PhD. (* 1935) is a Czech astronomer living and working in Germany. His whole life is devoted to planetary nebulae research. He became famous after the discovery of comet 1973 f, which was predicted to be the brightest comet of the 20th century. Although these expectations were not fulfilled, this comet was the most observed comet in the 20th century by professionals and the general public as well.

Dr. Lubos Kohoutek was born in 1935, January 29 in Zábřeh, Moravia. His interest for astronomy started during his high school studies. After studying physics at Masaryk University in Brno in the years 1953-1956, he graduated in astronomy in 1958 at Charles University in Prague.

During his university studies he focused on the observation of meteors and meteor showers research. Luboš Kohoutek regularly participated on meteor expeditions, several took place in Piešťany, Slovakia, at the top Bezovec hill.

After completion of the university studies, he followed on the doctoral study at the Astronomical Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Prague, where his supervisor was prof. Lubos Perek. Subject of his dissertation were planetary nebulae and he continued their research after obtaining his doctorate. The result of several years of work was Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae, which was published in 1967 with co-author doc. Lubos Perek, his doctoral supervisor.

As visiting astronomer Kohoutek continued his research of planetary nebulae at observatory Hamburg - Bergedorf, Germany, where was the largest Schmidt telescope at that time. Invasion of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968 changed his short-term assignment in Germany to permanent residence and he did not returned to Czechoslovakia.

Over the folowing decades devoted to planetary nebulae research, he gradually discovered new and new objects, so the original catalog had several additions.

In 2001, the catalog was updated and re-published under the title Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae (version 2000), this time with a total of 1510 objects. The original one contained 1,036 nebulae.

Lubos Kohoutek is one of the astronomers who always performed his job very thoroughly and carefully. Thank to this approach he made his discoveries, which were actually a by-product of primary research. After carefully search of photographic plates from perspective of planetary nebulae, he checked them for other objects too. This way he found a number of variable stars and one supernova.

The discovery of his first comet in 1969 was also the result of systematic work and thoroughness - he spotted new comet on the spectral image of two novaes in the constellation Vulpecula. He discovered also many asteroids, his first four were discovered in Hamburg on October 30 1967. He has found 76 asteroids, among them one Near-Earth asteroid, from Apollo group, (1865) Cerberus.

In 1971, he tried to find a lost comet 3D/Biela, whithout success, but this effort resulted in discovery of "comet of the century", also known as Kohoutek 1973f. Luboš Kohoutek is discoverer of 5 comets in total.

Besides his home observatory in Hamburg - Bergedorf he used to observe at other observatories with high quality conditions. It was Calar Alto in Spain, but especially Southern European Observatory (ESO) in La Silla, Chile, where he observed over 200 nights in period 1974 - 2008.

Since 1964 he is member of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). For his life's work has won numerous awards, in 2010 it was Frantisek Nusl Price from the Czech Astronomical Society.

Luboš Kohoutek is currently enjoying retirement, but he is still scientifically active, dedicated to the research for which he didn't have time during his active work.

He lives in Hamburg, Germany, with his wife Christine and they have two daughters.

                                                       Kresak´s couple

Foto: fam. Kresák archive

Asteroid 1942 EN discovered by K. Reinmuth on photographic plates from March 23, 1942, was named in his honour (1850) Kohoutek.

Citation published in Minor Planet Circular:

(1850) Kohoutek = 1942 EN
Named in honour of the Czech astronomer, Luboš Kohoutek (1935), on the staff of the observatory at Hamburg-Bergedorf since 1969. He has contributed much to our knowledge of planetary nebulae and emission-line stars and is also widely known as a discoverer of comets and minor planets.

List of comets discovered by Luboš Kohoutek

Date of discovery
at discovery
C/1969 O1
1969 Jul 26
14 magn.
1969 b
C/1973 D1
1973 Feb 28
15 magn.
1973 e
C/1973 E1
1973 Mar 7
16 magn.
1973 f
75 D
1975 Feb 9
14 magn.
1975 c
76 P
1975 Feb 27
13 magn.
1975 b


  • L. Druga: Dejiny astronómie a Slovensko, SÚHH, 2006, s. 257
  • Lutz D. Schmadel: Dictionary of minor planet names, Springer, 2003, s. 709-710
  • Orbit of Comet Vozárová, 1954 VIII,Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan, vol. 18. nr. 3