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History of D. S. Milky Way Globulars not seen Globular Talk Magic Eyepiece Mars

“A Timeline of Catalogues to Explore the Deep Sky" by Barbara Wilson Oct 1, 1996”

Edmund Halley's list of 6 objects 1715 - Of nebulae or lucid spots among the Fix't stars- This was the first separate list of nebulae compiled. Halley published it   in the Philosophical  Transactions of the Royal Society in 1715. The objects included the Orion Nebula, M42  (discovered in 1610 by Pieresc), Globular Clusters M22 (discovered in 1665 by Ihle), Omega Centauri (discovered by Halley in 1677), and M 13 (discovered by Halley in 1714),. Kirch's Nebula M11,   (discovered by Kirch in 1681) and the Andromeda Nebula M31, (discovered by Al-Sufi in the 10th century)..

Messier Catalogue  1783, 1784, 1787 - first catalogue of deep sky objects published in the Connoissance des Temps.  Compiled  by Charles Messier, these objects are still referred to by their "M" number by professional and amateur astronomers.  Messier's published list in French contained 103  objects.  Can be seen in 3" telescopes under dark skies.  Many visible in 7 x 50 binoculars.

GC (General Catalogue) 1863 - compiled by John Herschel (son of William). A catalogue of  5079 deep sky objects found from 1758 to 1860, includes all of Messier's list and William Herschel's 2500 deep sky discoveries plus 8 more objects discovered by W. H. which were not included in his 3 original catalogues. The GC contains all of John Herschel's discoveries as well. William Herschel's  3  earlier catalogues   were published in 1786 (first 1000 objects), 1789 (Second 1000 objects), and 1802 (500 additional objects) in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Astronomical Society of England. Some older amateur atlases use the William Herschel designations  (337 for example),  for the objects he discovered.  Burnham's Celestial Handbook also gives the original W.H. designations and the newer NGC # for objects discovered by the elder Herschel. The GC designations are no longer used  in modern catalogues and have been supplanted by the NGC designations.

THE NGC/IC  (New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters and Index Catalogue) 1888, 1895, 1908- compiled by J.L.E. Dreyer   (Danish Astronomer) under the direction   of the Royal Astronomical Society in England. First published in 1888,  it contained observations of over 7,840 nebulae known at the end of the year 1887.  Dozens of observers contributed .  It was intended to be a New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars, being the Catalogue  of the late Sir John F.W. Herschel,  revised, corrected and enlarged.  But the NGC replaced all previous lists and compilations, including the older GC of John Herschel.  In this time nebulas were not known to be galaxies.  Anything not resolvable into stars was called a nebula. Ordered in right ascension unlike Messier's Catalogue, lower numbered NGC's like NGC 1 and 2 are located at 00 hours R.A. and the numbers increase eastward across the sky.  Be aware that successively numbers NGC objects can be separated by many degrees north or south in declination.  The brightest NGC's are easily visible in a 3" telescope but a 5 to 10" is needed under dark skies to explore this list. To see ALL of the thousands of NGC objects a 16" to 20" is required. 

IC 1 (Supplementary Index Catalogue)  1895 - soon after the NGC was published it became necessary for Dreyer to revise it for new visual discoveries and corrections to the NGC.  Objects with IC numbers are from these two supplemental listings.    The first IC contains 1,529 objects discovered visually between 1888 - 1894. 

IC 2 (Supplementary  Index Catalogue) 1907 -  The second IC contains another 3,856 entries discovered between 1895 and 1907. 1400 of these objects were discovered visually with large telescopes, but the majority were found photographically. Most IC objects are very small and faint (though not all are).   Some are extremely difficult or nearly impossible to detect visually. However, with   modern nebula filters objects similar to IC 434 which contains the Horsehead dark nebula B-33 are now routinely seen visually

RNGC Revised New General Catalogue of Nonstellar Astronomical Objects  1973, 1980 -Tucson. The RNGC attempted to "correct" errors in the original NGC. This catalogue was published in book form and is available on computer tape, and was the main source of NGC data and positions used to plot Uranometria 2000.0.  However, this catalogue contains many errors and as a result  caused numerous errata lists to be published.  However the later  reprints of Uranometria do contain corrected charts based on these errata lists. The Deep Sky Field Guide to Uranometria contains 6 pages of errata to all volumes of Uranometria 2000.0

Beyond the NGC and Messier is an exclusive realm of objects that few eyes have ever glimpsed.

There are catalogues of emission nebulas such as:

Cederblad 1946  Studies of Bright Diffuse Galactic Nebulae (Lund 1946)- objects designated Ced

Sharpless - A Catalogue of H II Regions, (ApJ Supplement Series 4, 41, 1959)  designated SH2

B. Lynds - (1965) Catalogue of Bright Nebulae (ApJ Supplement Series 12 1965) designated LBN

van den Bergh -A Study of Reflection Nebulae  (AJ 71 1966) objects designated vdB

Gum  1955 - objects from Colin Gum's 1955 survey in the southern sky.

Barnard Catalogue of 349 Dark Objects in the Sky  1927 - dark nebulae are now being sought out by advanced visual observers, and the Messier and NGC lists do not contain these objects.  William Herschel commented on several dark "starless spots in the skies in the late 1700's.   American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard   compiled the first catalogue of these regions and they are called B objects. The most famous is the aforementioned B33 (Horsehead Nebula).   His list is contained in the classic 1927 work A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way ( Carnegie Institution)

Catalogue of Dark Nebulae-  (ApJ Supplement Series  7,  64,  (1962)  by Beverly Lynds - objects are designated LDN. A compilation of dark nebulae from a study of the red and blue POSS prints. Famous for opacity class system where the darkest nebulae are assigned the class 6 and the barely noticeable dark nebulae are class 1.

Planetary Nebula Catalogues - William Herschel  invented the term planetary nebula to describe the class of faint circular objects whose greenish color reminded him of the planet Uranus which he discovered. However, these objects have nothing to do with planets,  they are hot stars surrounded by a shell of ionized gas. There are over 1500 known planetaries in our portion of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Strasbourg- ESO Catalogue of Planetary Nebulae 1992 - a revision of the PK which contains additional objects found to be planetary nebulae and deleted a number of previously believed to be planetaries which were in the earlier PK Catalogue. This catalogue is available through Simbad on the Internet.

Perek and Kohoutek 1967 - many of the non NGC/IC planetaries are from Perek and Kohoutek's 1967 Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae,  Prague, 1967. These non NGC/IC planetaries only have a  PK designation.  However,  P and K catalogued all the planetaries known at that time, so all NGC/IC  planetaries  do have PK numbers. With UHC and O3 filters which let through the light of doubly ionized oxygen,  many PK planetaries are being observed by advanced observers. Most PKs are 13th to 16th magnitude, and plotted on Uranometria 2000. This catalogue is out of print and impossible to find, contains finder charts.

Abell Catalogue of Planetary Nebulae 1950's  - George Abell's listing of  some 100 large faint planetary nebulas which he discovered on the survey photographs taken  in the 1950's for the Palomar Sky Survey.

Open Cluster Catalogues - Over 1200 open clusters have been discovered in the Milky Way Galaxy. 

        The main open cluster catalogue is:

Catalogue of Open Cluster Data by Gosta Lynga (1981), updated 1987 (Lund Observatory Sweden).

many open clusters are plotted on Uranometria 2000.0  with prefixes that contain the name of their discoverer, (the following is not a complete list)  such as:

BE (Berkley)

Cr. (Collinder)

Do (Dolidze)

DoDz  (Dolidze-Dzimselejsvili)

Haffner (Haffner)

H (Harvard)

Hogg (Hogg)

K (King)

Mel (Melotte)


Ru (Ruprecht)

St (Stock)

Tr (Trumpler)

van den Bergh (vdB)

vdb-Ha (van den Bergh-Hagen)

     Globular Clusters - There are 150 known confirmed globular clusters that are associated with our Milky Way Galaxy. Some are halo globulars and are therefore distant and faint like the ones discovered on the Palomar Sky Survey, these are named Palomar 1-15. There are globulars that are highly reddened and were found using infrared surveys  near the center of our galaxy. Many of these have names like Terzan 1-11. Over 90 of the 146 are in the Messier and NGC catalogues.  The others are in specialized catalogues, since most of these were discovered in the last 40 years.  Some are still being discovered today. A "newly" designated globular is IC 1257 which was just within the last 2 weeks confirmed as a globular, but has been  pretty much ignored since its inclusion in the IC 1 in 1890!! It was listed as an open cluster in a few old catalogues but no modern work had been done on it.  It makes the the 147th known Milky Way globular.  is The best current list  for amateurs is maintained by Brian Skiff of Lowell Observatory with observational parameters on all known globulars and a few visible in external galaxies.  email Brian at for the latest data.  Also MegaStar Deep Sky Atlas   ver. 3 (CDRom) has Brian's latest list included.  Dr. William Harris at McMaster University in Canada also maintains a current professional list and extensive data on globulars on the World Wide Web, .

    Galaxy Catalogues - For the last 30 years galaxy surveys have produced numerous catalogues at research observatories.  Most non NGC/IC  galaxies are fainter than 13th magnitude and are in the big amateur telescope realm.   Beyond 14th magnitude, the number of galaxies may be limitless. With a 4 meter telescope and CCD imaging probably over 20 billion galaxies could be detected.   These professional surveys catalogued and labeled thousands of objects missed by the compilers of the NGC. The following are just a few of these professional catalogues so when you hear these names batted about you will know a little of their history:

A Revised Shapley Ames Catalog of Bright Galaxies (1981) - 1249 bright galaxies of which all but 61 appear in the NGC

Atlas and Catalog of Nearby Galaxies (1981)

Second Reference Catalog of Bright Galaxies (1976) University of Texas Press

Third Reference Catalog of Bright Galaxies (1991) Springer Verlag- updated info on all Shapley Ames Galaxies plus descriptive notes on appearance of many as seen on POSS prints.

Uppsala General Catalog of Galaxies (The UGC, 1973)  Peter Nilson, Uppsala Observatory, Sweden data given for 12,921 galaxies north of -2 degrees.  Designed to be complete to the 1' diameter size as the galaxies appear on the POSS blue prints and includes all galaxies to the limiting magnitude of 14.5   in the CGCG even the ones smaller than 1' with observational data on each.  Has a wonderful history of  galaxy catalogues.

Morphological Catalog of Galaxies (The MCG)  (1962-74)  5 volumes-  Moscow University Press This compliation  lists over 35,000 galaxies .

Catalogue of Galaxies and of Clusters of Galaxies  (The CGCG)  (1961-68) Cal Tech.  six volumes - Fritz Zwicky's catalog of over 15 million galaxies) . Magnitudes can't be trusted in this catalogue.

Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies - beautiful photographic atlas and catalogue of  unusual galaxies compiled by Halton Arp (ApJ Supplement Series  Vol 14, Nov 1966.)  It was published also in a large size 11 x 14 photographic reproduction in 1966 by Cal Tech but is now out of print and rare.

AGC - Abell Clusters of Galaxies (1958) "The Distribution of Rich Clusters of Galaxies"( ApJ Supplement Series 3, 1958) - George Abell cataloged over 2712 rich  clusters of galaxies he found while examining the Palomar Sky Survey Plates. The brightest of these clusters are visible with large amateur telescopes and some within range of 10 inch scopes. MegaStar Deep Sky Atlas catalogues all of these clusters, and in many charts has positional data for individual galaxies within the clusters.   The Webb Society Deep Sky Observer's Handbook Volume 5 lists 15 of these remote clusters visible in amateur telescopes with detailed charts and many more with positional data. These are the current best easily available sources if you want to observe the really deep sky.

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