Hirayama Kiyotsugu: Discoverer of Asteroid Families

  • Seiko Yoshida
  • Tsuko Nakamura
Conference paper
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings book series (ASSSP)


Currently ‘asteroid families’ are considered to be one of the most basic concepts in planetary sciences, relating to planetary formation, impact evolution and spacecraft exploration. And this trend will be even more important in the near future. The asteroid families were first discovered in 1918 by Hirayama Kiyotsugu, an astronomer at the Tokyo Imperial University, and this was one of the earliest internationally-recognized scientific achievements by a Japanese scientist following the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Since then, research on the precise orbital elements proving the existence of asteroid families, and on their photometric and spectral characteristics, has continued through to the present day.

This paper overviews the lifetime and scientific career of Hirayama. We first mention his motivation and clues that led him to the discovery of asteroid families and then discuss the ideas he had in mind about their formation. In our paper we also introduce his other research activities, such as latitude observations, analysis of latitude variation, geodetic measurements of the Japan–Russia border on Sakhalin island after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, overseas solar eclipse expeditions, the explanation of the Kirkwood gaps and the resisting medium in the Solar System, motion theories of Hilda and Hecuba asteroids, light-curve interpretation of a certain type of variable stars, and surveys of archival astronomical records in China and Korea, as well as in Japan.


Orbital Element Celestial Mechanic Latitude Variation Secular Perturbation Asteroid Family 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We wish to thank Y. Kozai, H. Yokoo, S. Nakayama, K. Furukawa, T. Hirayama, Y. Tomita and K. Tanikawa, who kindly provided us with useful information and discussions on Hirayama Kiyotsugu.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Common subject DivisionMuroran Institute of TechnologyMuroranJapan

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