Parenago, Pavel Petrovich

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(b. Ekaterinodar [now Krasnodar], Russia, 20 March 1906; d. Moscow, U. S. S. R., 5 January 1960)


The son of a physician and surgeon, Parenago lived in Moscow from 1912. He graduated from secondary school in 1922 and, seven years later, from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of the University of Moscow. The sudden appearance in 1920 of a nova in the constellation Cygnus aroused Parenago’s interest in the observation of variable stars. He began his scientific work as a serious observer of variable stars in 1921–1922. In 1925, while still a student, Parenago became a computer at the Astrophysical Institute, which in 1931 became part of the P. K. Sternberg State Astronomical Institute at the University of Moscow. From 1932 he was a senior scientific worker.

Parenago began teaching in 1930 as an assistant at the Steel Institute, then was a lecturer in the department of mathematics. In 1935 he was awarded a doctorate in the physical and mathematical sciences without defense of a dissertation. In 1937 Parenago became a lecturer, and in 1938 professor, in the department of astronomy of the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of the University of Moscow. From 1940 he was the head of the department of stellar astronomy there, which had been organized on his initiative. He gave courses in stellar astronomy, spherical astronomy, probability theory and mathematical analysis of observations, and stellar dynamics. In 1953 he was elected corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Parenago began his scientific career with photometric research on variable stars — first visually and then from photographs in the collection at the Moscow and Simeiz observatories — in all he investigated more than 600 variable stars. He subsequently stars, including their motion. He discovered statistical relationships of spatial distribution in the galaxy, and investigated the use of variable stars in studying its structure. For these purposes he collected and systematized a vast amount of observational material that reflected all aspects of contemporary knowledge of the stars. The foremost Soviet stellar astronomer, Parenago was head of a school of specialists in this field and the organizer of the first department of stellar astronomy in the Soviet Union. His textbook Kurs zvezdnoy astronomii (“course of Stellar Astronomy”) went through three editions (1938, 1946, and 1954) and was translated into some foreign languages.

The numerous investigations of variable stars by Parenago and other Moscow astronomers and their rich collection of references to the existing world literature led the Executive Committee of the International Astronomical Union in 1946 to commission them to name new variable stars and to compile and edit Obshchy katalog peremennykh zvezd (“General Catalog of Variable Stars”). Parenago was coauthor of its two editions (1948, 1958) and of the first edition of Katalog zvezd, zapodozrennykh v peremennosti (“Catalog of stars Suspected of Being Variable”; 1951). His long monograph, Fizicheckie peremennye zvezdy (“Physical Variable Stars”; 1937). written with B. V. Kukarkin, and the popular Peremennye zvezdy i sposoby ikh nablyudenia (“Variables Stars and Methods of Observing Them”; 1938; 2nd ed., 1947), were of great value for amateur astronomers.

His interest in the structure galaxy and in using variable stars as indicators of distance led Parenago to develop a method of taking into account the absorption of light in galactic space by particles of interstellar dust. This method substantially increased the precision of determining galactic distances. A number of important works by Parenago concern the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (the “spectrum luminosity”relation and the “mass-radius-luminosity” relation). Parenago also studied the kinematics of stars and stellar dynamics. With Kukarkin he developed and published a new, evolutionary meaning for the concept of subsystems of various objects in the galaxy; and, using extensive statistical material, he obtained fundamental quantitative properties of these subsystems and provided a method for evaluating the total number of objects in each of them. Parenago studied the law of rotation of the galaxy and its spiral structure. He also developed a new theory of galactic potential (that is, of the law of the variation of the force of galactic attraction with the distance from the center of the galaxy) and the theory of the galactic orbit of stars and the sun. He published 225 works, more than 40 reviews, and more than 150 popular articles and books.

From 1947 to 1951 Parenago was president of the Moscow Astronomical and Geodetic Society. In 1949 he received the Bredikhin Prize of the Soviet Academy of Sciences for a series of works on the structure of the galaxy. He was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1951. Parenago was a number of the International Astronomical Union and participated in a number of international and Soviet congresses and scientific conferences.


I. Original Works. Parenago’s writings of the 1930’s are “O periode i krivoy izmenenia yarkosti SW Cygni” (“On the Period and Curve of the Variation of Brightness of SW Cygni”), in Astronomischeskii-zhurnal, 8 , nos. 3–4 (1931), 229–239; “Shkaly zvezdnykh velichin” (“Stellar Magnitude Scales”), in Uspekhi astronomicheskikh nauk, 2 (1933), 104–122; “The Catalogue of Parallxes of Variable Stars”, in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 11 , no. 1 (1934), 29–39; “Untersuchungen uber veränderliche Sterne mit unbekannten Lichtwechsel”, in Peremennye zvezdy, 4 , no. 9 (1934), 301–317; “O vraschenii Urana vokrug osi” (“On the Rotation of Uranus Its Axis”), “The Shapes of Light Curves of Long-Period Cepheids”, in Zeitscherift fur Astrophysik, 11 , no. 5 (1936), 337–355, written with B. V. Kukarkin; “The Mass-Luminosity Relation”, in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 14 , no. 1 (1937), 33–48; “Satndard Light Curves of Cepheids”, ibid., 14 , no. 3 (1937), 181–193, written with B. V. Kukarkin; “Issledovania izmeneny bleska 208 peremennykh zvezd (1920–1937)” (“Research on the Variations in Brightness of 208 Variable Stars”), in Trudy Gosudarstvennogo astronomicheskogo instituta im. P. K. Shernberga, 12 iss. 1 (1938), 1–132; “Obobshchennaya zavisimost massa-svetimost” (“Generalized Mass-Luminosity Relation”), in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 16 , no. 6 (1939), 7–14; and “Opredelenie galakticheskoy orbity Solntsa” (“Deter,ination of the Galactic Orbit of the Sun”), ibid., 16 , no. 4 (1939), 18–24

During the 1940’s Parenago published “Issledovania, osnovannye na svodnom kataloge zvezdnykh parallaksov” (“Researches Based on the Summary Catalog of Stellar Parallaxes”), in Trudy Gosudarstvennogo astronomicheskogo instituta im. P. K. Shternberga, 13 , pt. 1 (1940), 59–117; “O temnyth tumannostyakh i pogloshcenii sveta v galaktike” (“On Dark Nebulae and the Absorption of Light in the Galaxy”), in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 17 , no. 4 (1940), 1–22, also in Byulleten Gosudarstvennogo astronomicheskogo instituta im. P. K. Shternberga, 4 (1940), 3–24; “o diagramme Rassela-Khertsshprunga” (“On the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram”), in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 21 , no. 5 (1944), 223–229; “O mezhzevezdnom pogloshchenii sveta” (“On the Interstellar Absorption of Light”), ibid., 22 , no. 3 (1945), 129–150.; “Some Works on the Structure of the Galaxy”, in Popular Astronomy, 53 (1945), 441–446; “Fitzicheskie kharakteristiki subkarlikov” (“Physical Characteristics of Subdwarfs”), in Astronomichesskii zhurnal, 23 , no. 1 (1946), 31–39; “O dvizheniakh sharovykh skopleny” (“On the Motions of Globular Clusters”), ibid., 24 , no. 3 (1947), 167–176; “Prostranstvennoe dvizhenie peremennykh zvezd tipa RR Lyrae” (“Spetial Motion of Variable Stars of Type RR Lyare”), in Peremenye zvezdy, 6 , no. 2 (1948), 79–88; “Shkaly i katalogi zvezdnykh velichin” (“Scales and Catalogs of Stellar Magnitudes”), in Uspekhi astronomicheskikh nauk, 2nd ser., 4 (1948), 257–287; and “Storenie Galaktiki” (“Structure of the Galaxy”), ibid., pp. 69–171, transalted into German in Abhandlungen aus der Sowjetischen Astronomie, 3 (1953), 7–113.

Writings by Parenago that appeared in the 1950’s were “O gravitatsionom potentsiale Galaktiki” (“On the Gravitational Potential of the Galaxy”), 2 pts., in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 27 , no. 6 (1950), 329–340, and 29 , no. 3 (1952), 245–287; “Issledovanie prostranstvennykh skorosteyzvezd” (“Research on the Spatial Velocities of Stars”), ibid., no. 3 (1950), 150–168, also in Trudy Gosudarstevennogo astronomicheskogo instituta im P. K. Shternberga, 20 (1951), 26–80; “Issledovanie zavisimosti massa-radiussvetimost. I. Opredelenie empiricheskoy zavisimosti massa-radius-svetimost. II. Teroreticheskaya interpretatsia empiricheskikh zavisimostey” (“Research on the MassRadius-Luminosity Relation. I. Determination of the Empirical Mass-Radius-Luminosity Relation. II. Theoretical Interpretation of Empirical Relation”), in Trudy Gosudarstvennogo astronomischeskogo instituta im. P. K. Shternberga, 20 (1951), 81–146, written with A. G. Masevich, alco in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 27 , no. 3 (1950), 137–149, and no. 4 (1950), 202–210; “O gravitatsionnom potentsiale galaktiki. II” (“On the Gravitational Potential of the Galaxy. II”), in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 29 , no. 3 (1952), 245–287; “Issledovanie zvezd v oblasti tumannosti Oriona” (“Research on Stras in Areas of Nebuale of Orion”), ibid., 30 , no. 3 (1953), 249–264, also in Byulleten “Peremennye zvezdy”, 9 , no. 2 (1953), 89–93, and in Trudy Gosudarstvennogo astronomicheskogo instituta im. P. K. Shternberga, 25 (1954), 1–547; “O spiralnoy strukture galatiki po radiionablyudeniam na volne 21 sm”. (“On the Spiral Structure of the Galaxy According to Radio Observations on a Wave of 21 cm”.), in Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 32 , no. 3 (1955), 226–238; “Plan kompleksnogo izuchenia izbrannykh oblastey Mlechnogo Puti” (“Plan of Complex Study of Selected Areas of the Milky Way”), ibid., 33 , no. 5 (1956), 749–755; “O kinematike razlichnykh poseldovatenostey na diagramme spektr-svetimost” (“On the Kinematics of Various Sequences in the Spectrum-Luminosity Diagram”), ibid., 35 , no. 3 (1958), 488–490; and “The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram From Photoelectric Observations of Nearby Stars”, in J. Greenstein, ed., The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram (Paris, 1959), 11–18.

In 1960 he published “Zvezdnaya astronomia” (“Stellar Astronomy”), in Astronomia u SSSR za 40 let. 1917–1957 (“Astronomy in the U. S. S. R. for Forty Years…”; Moscow, 1960), 227–259.

II. Secondary Literature. See Astronomichesky tsirkulyar SSSR no. 169 (1956), 23, on Parenago’s 50th birthday; Astronomicheskii zhurnal, 37 , no. 1 (1960), 191192, an orbituary; Bolshaya sovetskaya entsiklopedia, 2nd edf., XXXII (1955), 88; B. V. Kukarkin, “P. P. Parenago (1906–1960),” in Pereinennye zvezdy, 13, no. 1 (1960), 3–5; D. Y. Martynov, Astronomichesky kalendar na 1951 g. (“Astronomical Calendar for 1951”; Gorky, 1951), 144–145, on Parenago’s receiving the Bredikhin Prize; “P. P. Parenago (1906–1960),” in Istoriko-astronomicheskie issledovania, no. 7 (1961), 335–394, which consists of articles by B. A. Vorontsov-Velyaminov, B. V. Kukarkin, A. S. Sharov, and F. A. Tsitsin, and a bibliography of Parenago’s works; A. S. Sharov, “On the Photometric Catalogue of Stars in the Region of Orion Nebulae, Compiled by P. P. Parenago,” in Astronomical Journal, 66 , no. 2 (1961), 103; and W. Zonn, “Pavel Petrowich Parcnago,” in Postgpy astrononui, 8 , no. 3 (1960), 175.

P. G. Kulikovsky