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He was a good finder of asteroids, finding 122 in all, from 136 Austria in 1874 to 1073 Gellivara in 1923. Some of the notable asteroids he found include 153 Hilda, 216 Kleopatra, 243 Ida, 253 Mathilde, 324 Bamberga, and the Amor asteroid 719 Albert.
From 1866 to 1870, Palisa studied mathematics and astronomy at the University of Vienna; however, he did not graduate until 1884. Despite this, by 1870 he was an assistant at the University's observatory, and a year later gained a position at the observatory in Geneva. A few years later, in 1872, at the age of 24, Palisa became the leader of the Austrian Naval Observatory in Pola. While at Pola, he found his first asteroid, 136 Austria, on March 18, 1874. Along with this, he found twenty-seven minor planets and one comet. During his stay in Pola he used a small six-inch refractor telescope to aid in his research.
- Herbert Raaba. "Johann Palisa, the most successful visual discoverer of asteroids" (PDF). http://www.astrometrica.at/Papers/Palisa.pdf.
- (German) von Hepperger, J. (November 1925). "Anzeige des Todes von Johann Palisa". Astronomische Nachrichten 225: 125–127. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?1925AN....225..125V.