Kostinsky, Sergey Konstantinovich

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Kostinsky, Sergey Konstantinovich

(b.Moscow, Russia, 12 August 1867; d. Pulkovo, near Leningrad, U.S.S.R., 21 August 1936)


Kostinsky graduated from the first Moscow Gym. nasium and in 1890 from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of Moscow University, where his teachers in astronomy were Bredikhin and Ceraski. When Bredikhin was elected director of the Pulkovo observatory, Kostinsky was one of the first Russian astronomers invited to work there. in 1890 Kostinsky was supernumerary astronomer of the observatory, from 1894 adjunct astronomer, and from 1902 senior astronomer. In 1895 the new director, O. A. Baklund, commissioned Kostinsky to organize a section of astrophotography and to set up the normal astrograph at Pulkovo for the application of photography to precise measurements in astronomy.

In 1896 he obtained an excellent photograph of the solar corona during observation of a total solar eclipse on the island of Novaya Zemlya in the northern Arctic Ocean. In 1899-1901 Kostinsky made astronomical determinations and trigonometrical measure. ments an Spitsbergen in connection with the works of the Russian-Swedish expedition for the measure. ment of an are of meridian.

At Pulkovo, from the end of 1899, Kostinsky lectured and taught scientific photography to young astronomers, geodesists, and hydrogiaphers who were sent to the observatory for practical work. In 1915 he was elected corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences and honorary doctor of Moscow University. In 1919 Kostinsky began to teach at Petrograd-Leningrad University as professor.

Kostinsky’s scientific activity at Pulkovo began with the study of the fluctuation of astronomical latitudes based on observations with a transit instru. ment on the first vertical. The method he proposed for computing the curved motion of the pole has been widely used. This method was based on the analysis of the variations in latitude of several observatories located at various geographical longitudes.

Working in a new branch of science, astrophoto. graphy, in 1898, together with F. F. Renz, Kostinsky studied in detail an instrument designed to make very precise measurement of astronegatives. In doing this he discovered the effect of mutual repulsion of very close stellar images on the negative. This phenomenon is now known as the Kostinsky effect. Kostinsky then attempted to determine the proper motion of the stars by intensive photography with the normal astrograph. The first series of photographs (“first epoch”) was compared with a second series taken a decade later (“second epoch”) in order to obtain’ the precise measures of the yearly changes of positions of the stars (“proper motions”).

Having developed a method of measuring negatives and deducing reduction formulas from them, Kos. tinsky turned to the determination by photography of stellar parallaxes. For the comparison of negatives, Kostinsky began to use, instead of the blink micro. scope, the stereocomparator, which, by superimposing the images of two negatives, stereoscopically marks out an object with a noticeable proper movement from the background stars. Kostinsky developed a method of using the stereocomparator and became a strong advocate of it. His method and results were praised by A. Y. Orlov, director of the Odessa observatory, and by Van Rhijn, who was amazed at the precision of proper motions that Kostinsky had achieved.

Over a ten-year period Kostinsky obtained remark. able photographs of star clusters, nebulae, the satellites of Mars, and the planets Uranus and Saturn; made precise measurements of the positions of the planets; and became a recognized authority on photo. graphical astrometry. He obtained about 3,000 astro. negatives in all. His numerous photographs of selected areas of Kapteyn permitted Kostinsky’s pupils in the 1930’s to compile a catalog of the proper motions of 18,000 stars, a valuable contribution to the study of stellar kinematics. Kostinsky’s photographs of Eros during the “great opposition” in 1900 were used in England by A. R. Hincks for a new determination of the solar parallax. In 1914 Kostinsky published in Russian his later well-known work on the parallax of Mira Ceti (0.02″ ± 0.02″); the currently accepted value is 0.013″ ± 0.011″.

At Pulkovo, Kostinsky established a school of specialists in photographic astrometry, now headed by A. N. Deutsch. Kostinsky contributed a valuable chapter to the two-volume monograph compiled mainly by the Pulkovo astronomers, Kurs astrofiziki i zvezdnoy astronomii (“A Course in Astrophysics and Stellar Astronomy,” 1934). He also contributed greatly to popularizing astronomical science in Russia. In 1916-1917 Kostinsky was one of the most active organizers of the All-Russian Astronomical Society and its first congress.


I. Original Works. Among Kostinsky’s papers are “Ob izmenenii astronomicheskikh shirot” (“On Variations of Astronomical Latitudes”) in Z apiski Akademii nauk, 73 , app. 10 (1893), 1-101; “Po povodu odnoy lichnoy oshibki pri izmerenii fotograficheskikh snimkov” (“Concerning One Personal Error in the Measurement of Photographs”), in Izvestiya Akademil nauk, 3 (1895), 491-498; and “O Bredikhinskoy teorii kometnykh form” (“On Bredikhin’s Theory of Cometary Forms”), in S. A. Vengerov, ed., Kritiko-biografichesky slovar russkikh pisateley i uchenykh (“Critical-Biographical Dictionary of Russian Writers and Scientists”). V (St. Petersburg, 1897), 279-290.

Subsequent works include “Zur Frage übcr die Parallaxe von β Cassiopejae,” in Astronomische Nachrichten, 163 (1903), 350; “Untersuchungen auf dem Gebiete der Stern. parallaxcn mit Hilfe der Photographie,” in Publications de I’Observatoire Central à Poulkovo, 17 , no. 2 (1905); “Über die Einwicklung zweier Bilder auf einander bei astrophoto. graphischen Aufnahmen,” in Mitteilungen der Sternware zu Pulkovo, 2 , no. 14 (1907), 15-28; “Durchmusterung der Eigenbewegungen in der Umgebund des Sternhaufens NGC 7209,” in Astranamische Nachechten, 238 (1935), 245-248; “The Star-Streamings in the Region of Spiral Nebula Messier 51 [NGC 5194],” in Tsirkulyar Glavnoi astronomicheskoi observatorii v Pulkove, no. 15 (1935), 18-21; and “Stereoscopic Durchmusterung of Proper Motions in Four Regions of the Sky,” ibid., no. 20 (1936), 22-31.

II. Secondary Literature. Kostinsky’s autobiography is in S. A. Vengerov, ed., Kritiko-biograficliesky slovar russkikh pisateley i uchenykh, VI (1904), 49-50; for further information on Kostinsky’s life, see the obituaries by A. N. Deutsch in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 13 , no. 6 (1936), 505-507; and by M. S. Eigenson in Priroda, no. 9 (1936), 128-132; and Y. G. Perel, Vydayushchiesya russkie astronomy (“Outstanding Russian Astronomers”; Mos. cow-Leningrad, 1951), pp. 178-193.

See also “K biografii S. K. Kostinskogo” (“Toward a Biography of S. K. Kostinsky”), in Istoriko-astronomiches. kie issledovaniya, no. 3 (1957), 531-540.

P. G. Kulikovsky