Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 65

advance in atlases. The charts are very large
(25 by 20 inches) and have an excellent
equatorial coordinate system overlaid with
the ecliptic system. Atlas Coelestis has 25 star
maps, each covering several constellations
and overlapping with each other. Flamsteed's
focus was on aiding navigation, and so he
included many more stars (2,919) than
previous works. However, since nebulae are
superfluous to navigation, the only deep-sky
objects he plots are M31, M44, and M45,
which are depicted as stars. A further limitation
is that Flamsteed only mapped what he
could observe from Greenwich, England. His
atlas uses a normal view.
Atlas Celeste de Flamsteed by J. Fortin (1776). As suggested
by the title, Fortin copied Flamsteed's Atlas Coelestis closely
but with the addition of 15 deep-sky objects: M7, M9, M10,
M11, M12, M13, M15, M22, M27, M28, M31, M32, M42,
M55, and NGC 6242, with M44 and M45 shown as groups of
stars. Fortin provided a key with different symbols for nebulae
based on their appearance. Unfortunately, he also included a
fair number of false nebulae. The 26 charts of this atlas are
much smaller (9 by 7 inches) than Flamsteed's original.
Bode's Atlas of 1782
As most readers will have already gleaned, none of the atlases
mentioned in the previous section would prove very useful to
those hoping to find more than a handful of deep-sky objects.
However, Bode's 1782 atlas, Vorstellung Der Gestirne, marks a
significant departure.
While the charts in Vorstellung Der Gestirne are very close
copies of those in Fortin's atlas (but in German instead of
French), Bode included 1,520 additional stars and 75 deep-sky
objects, with only a handful of false nebulae. As in Fortin's
atlas, Bode's work includes a key showing different symbols
for the different types of nebulae.
In producing this atlas, it appears that Bode relied heavily
on Messier's 1780 catalog and incorporated all 68 objects
except for M40 (a pair of faint stars) and M43, which hardly
requires a separate symbol due to its proximity to M42. The
number of deep-sky objects plotted would seem to make Vorstellung
Der Gestirne the first usable deep-sky atlas - but Bode
went further by adding two special charts depicting nebulae
and double stars in greater detail.
Chart XXX portrays deep-sky objects in 37 figures, and
chart XXXI consists of 50 figures, mostly of double stars. Both
extra charts are unique to Bode's atlas and are clearly designed
to emphasize deep-sky observing. Bode also added pages of
notes describing the objects depicted, but unfortunately he
didn't provide coordinates, making it difficult to identify
UP CLOSE Bode included 37 figures showing magnified views of
deep-sky objects on chart XXX of his 1782 atlas. No coordinates were
provided to identify these, but the author has labeled them based on
Bode's written descriptions.
CHART MASTER Johann Elert Bode (1747-1826)
was not only a talented celestial cartographer but
also a skilled observer credited with the discoveries of
M53, M64, M81, M82, and M92. He also determined
the orbit of the planet discovered by Herschel in 1781
and suggested Uranus as its name.
them. For example, his descriptions of the
nebulae in Figures 9 and 10 on chart XXX
are very similar. For Figure 9 Bode writes,
" According to Messier, a nebulous star cluster
in Auriga with a diameter of 9 minutes and
very small stars. The position of the neighboring
stars and their distance is recorded
here per my observation. " For Figure 10 he
notes, " A star cluster in Auriga; according to Messier, it is also
9 minutes in diameter. One can hardly distinguish its stars
through a small telescope. The stars around it are depicted
according to Koehler's observation. "
I was able to confirm the identity of each object on chart
XXX only by comparing Bode's descriptions with those of
Johann Gottfried Koehler (mentioned in the quote above)
and Charles Messier. Messier's descriptions clarify that Bode's
Figures 9 and 10 were in fact M37 and M36, respectively.
Only a few of the double stars on chart XXXI are labeled,
and deciphering the descriptive text is even more problematic
than it was for the nebulae. For example, for Figure 44 Bode
wrote: " A small double star near the eighth and ninth brightest
ones in Aquarius. " I'm not a double-star buff, but I expect
it wouldn't be easy for most observers to track down this pair.
And the Winner Is . . .
Following Bode's 1782 atlas, an updated edition of Fortin's
atlas was published in 1795, and Neuester Himmels-Atlas by
Christian Goldbach appeared in 1799, featuring white stars
set against a black sky. Both works included many Messier
objects; however, Bode was clearly the first to do so and certainly
benefited from the timely release of Messier's second list
of nebulae in 1780. Notwithstanding the difficulties deciphering
Vorstellung Der Gestirne's two bonus charts, Bode's emphasis
on the deep sky makes his work stand out from the rest.
We can't know if astronomers of the late 18th century
used this atlas to aid their own searches for nebulae, but
today's amateurs could easily star-hop to most Messier objects
with Bode's charts. Vorstellung Der Gestirne can justifiably be
considered the first usable deep-sky atlas.
As good as Bode's star maps are, even a modestly equipped
modern observer will quickly exhaust the atlas's supply of
deep-sky targets. While we might lament the ever-worsening
intrusion of light pollution in our 21st-century night skies,
we can be thankful for the accuracy and detail of today's star
atlases. Just imagine our hobby without them!
¢ RAY HARRIS has been collecting and studying antique celestial
charts and atlases since 1987, and has lectured widely
on the art and science of early star atlases.
sk yand tele scope .o r g * JANUARY 2022 65
CHART XXX: COLLECTION OF RAY HARRIS;
BODE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / PUBLIC DOMAIN
https://skyandtelescope.org/

Sky & Telescope - January 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - January 2022

Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 1
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Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover3
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover4
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