Dr. Luboš Kohoutek (1935 - 2023)

In the first days of the year Hamburger Sternwarte received the sad news about the death of the famous astronomer Luboš Kohoutek. He died 30 December, 2023 at the age of 88.

written by Matthias Hünsch


Luboš Kohoutek was born 29 January, 1935 in Zábřeh in Czechoslovakia. Being interested in Astronomy since his schooldays, he studied Physics and Astronomy at the Masaryk University in Brno (1953 - 1956) and the Charles University in Prague (1956-1958). In his studies, he first focused on meteors and meteor showers. Later he worked as a researcher at the Astronomical Institute at the Czechoslovakian Academy of Sciences where he did his PhD on Planetary Nebulae under the supervision of Prof. Luboš Perek. From this work resulted the much-noticed Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae, published by Kohoutek and Perek in 1967. In 1999 and 2001, Kohoutek published two updated versions of this catalogue in Astronomie & Astrophysics and in Abhandlungen der Hamburger Sternwarte. The last edition contains 1510 entries. Until today, this catalogue is considered as a standard reference and the abbreviation „PK“ (Perek-Kohoutek) plus catalogue number is a widespread designation of planetary nebulae.

After his first visit to Hamburger Sternwarte on the occasion of the IAU General Meeting in 1964, Luboš Kohoutek performed extensive observations at the observatory with the telescope Großer Schmidtspiegel, one of the largest instruments of its kind at the time. With the help of the prism he discovered numerous additional planetary nebulae. After several guest stays at Hamburger Sternwarte and the suppression of the Prague spring in 1968, Kohoutek decided for a permanent residence in Hamburg. In 1971, he became leading observator at the observatory and continued his research works for many years after his retirement in 2000.

Luboš Kohoutek acquired his worldwide celebrity mainly through his discovery of the long-period comet C/1973 E1in 1973, also known as comet Kohoutek. He discovered four more comets and 76 asteroids. However, the Asteroid 1943 EN, named (1850) Kohoutek in his honors, was not discovered by Kohoutek himself.

In 2010, Kohoutek was awarded the most prestigious Frantisek Nusl Award of the Czech Astronomical Society. The list of his publications contains more than 200 entries, most of them with him as first author.

Luboš Kohoutek lived with his family near to Hamburger Sternwarte in Hamburg-Bergedorf. Besides Astronomy, his family was important to him and he was keenly interested in classical music. In later years, he was increasingly concerned by the consequences of environmental pollution and wrote the two books „Die Erde aus Sicht eines Astronomen“ and „Unser Lebensraum in Gefahr. Die Atmosphäre der Erde“.

The staff of Hamburger Sternwarte is mourning for the estimated and honored colleague Luboš Kohoutek. We will keep him in honorable memory. He rests in peace right next door to his beloved work place at the Bergedorf cemetery.

Photo: Hamburger Sternwarte