Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 65

only wanted to show far more stars, but he also wanted to
portray the mythological figures long associated with each
constellation. Advances in publishing would also allow Bayer
to replace Piccolomini's crude woodblock renderings with
spectacular images made possible by copper-engraved printing plates. Bayer published his Uranometria (Measure of the
Heavens) in Augsburg in 1603. But who was Johann Bayer?
It's a sad commentary, indeed, when virtually all that's
known about someone comes from the engraving on a tombstone. Such is the case with Bayer, who is buried in a Catholic
cemetery in Augsburg, Germany. The epitaph, as translated
by astronomy historian Basil Brown, tells us that Bayer
trained in law and served as the equivalent at the time of
attorney general to Augsburg. His fame comes neither from
his successful advocacy for that municipality nor from an
impressive body of brilliant legal opinions still taught to this
day in the schools of law in Europe and America. His day job
left no legacy comparable to that of his nocturnal hobby.
Bayer's Uranometria is probably the most enduring contribution to astronomy by a nonprofessional. In it he depicted
all 48 ancient constellations in a series of full-page engrav-

ings. To these he added one last engraving that depicted 12
new constellations, groupings of Southern Hemisphere stars
recorded by Dutch navigators while on their great journeys of
exploration.
Of the 140 stars available, Bayer used 121 to define the
southern skyscape, introducing Musca (the fly), Chamaeleon (an exotic creature about to eat the fly), Piscis Volans (a
flying fish), Dorado (a fish now associated with a swordfish),
Phoenix (to honor the famous birds of mythology), Grus
(often associated with a flamingo), Tucana (honoring the
South American bird), Indus (the Native American hunter,
and the only human in the sky), Hydrus (the small water
snake, below Indus), Pavo (the peacock, in mythology Hera's
pet bird), Apus (the bird of paradise found in New Guinea),
and Triangulum Australe (the southern triangle).
Bayer also adopted the scheme introduced by Piccolomini
of identifying stellar brightness by using Greek letter desigT A FAMILIAR FORM The constellation Orion as presented in Uranometria by Johann Bayer. The handwritten notations along the right side
of the chart were made by the atlas's owner, who plotted the progress of
a naked-eye comet visible around Christmas in 1652.

sk yandtelescope.org * JANUARY 2 021

65


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Sky & Telescope - January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - January 2021

Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 1
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Contents
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