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Observing and Cataloguing Nebulae and Star Clusters


  • 357 b/w illus. 238 tables
  • Page extent: 660 pages
  • Size: 246 x 189 mm
  • Weight: 1.54 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 523.1/135
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: QB853 .S736 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Nebulae--Catalogs
    • Stars--Clusters--Catalogs
    • Nebulae--Charts, diagrams, etc
    • Stars--Clusters--Charts, diagrams, etc

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521192675)

The New General Catalogue (NCG), originally created in 1888, is the source for referencing bright nebulae and star clusters, both in professional and amateur astronomy. With 7840 entries, it is the most-used historical catalogue of observational astronomy, and NGC numbers are commonly used today. However, the fascinating history of the discovery, observation, description and cataloguing of nebulae and star clusters in the nineteenth century has largely gone untold, until now. This well-researched book is the first comprehensive historical study of the NGC, and is an important resource to all those with an interest in the history of modern astronomy and visual deep-sky observing. It covers the people, observatories, instruments and methods involved in nineteenth-century visual deep-sky observing, as well as prominent deep-sky objects. The book also compares the NGC to modern object data, demonstrating how important the NGC is in observational astronomy today.

• A unique source for visual observers and professional astronomers, providing an extensive study of the New General Catalogue (NGC) • Presents a complete overview of nineteenth-century visual deep-sky observations and the history of eminent deep-sky objects • Highlights the importance of the NGC in modern observational astronomy


Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. William Herschel's observations and parallel activities; 3. John Herschel's Slough observations; 4. Discoveries made in parallel with John Herschel's Slough; 5. John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope; 6. The time after Herschel's observations till Auwers' list of new nebulae; 7. Compiling the General Catalogue; 8. Dreyer's first catalogue: the supplement to Herschel's General Catalogue; 9. Compilation of the New General Catalogue 356; 10. The New General Catalogue: publication, analysis and effects; 11. Special topics; 12. Summary; Appendices; Index.


'… a must for anyone interested in the history of deep-sky observing.' Astronomy Now

'If Dreyer's New General Catalogue was the supreme summation of nineteenth-century visual observations of non-stellar objects, Steinicke's book has done the same for the history of nebular astronomy in this period. I heartily recommend it to all serious deep-sky observers and historians of astronomy.' Lee MacDonald, Journal of the British Astronomical Association

'The organisation of [this] book is superb, and 31 pages of extensive indexes (besides the list of 1600 cited publications) make it a joy to use as a reference book. One can be sent to the right page (there are 648 pages containing 239 tables and 324 figures) knowing any of the following: subject matter, name of object in the sky, observatory, telescope or person's name. Once at the correct page, one finds numbers and dates and facts that are potentially useful fodder for any historian interested in astronomy during the century following 1780.' Woodruff T. Sullivan III, Metascience

'… copiously and clearly illustrated … replete with tables and charts … All these lend welcome visual support to the author's dense and detailed account of what appears to be every step, misstep, claim and controversy that preceded and followed the New General Catalogue's publication … Steinicke has … given us much to work with and for that, we are grateful.' Annals of Science

'No stone has been left unturned in the quest for detail in this exhaustively researched, comprehensive history of the compilation of the New General Catalogue …' Sky at Night

'… fundamental … this will remain the standard reference work in the field … With this labour of love, Steinicke has provided an invaluable service to historians of astronomy and deep sky observers.' Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage

''Monumental' is not too laudatory a term to describe this outstanding book … I would not be hesitant to say that it will become the definitive work on the subject for many years to come. The scholarship and amount of research … is absolutely incredible and is unmatched by any previous publications on the subject that I have encountered … for anyone who considers themselves to be an ardent deep-sky enthusiast this book is a must.' Deep Sky Observer

'… very remarkable … clearly a labour of love … It is wonderful to have such a treasure trove available, and Cambridge University Press must be congratulated for undertaking the publication of such a demanding work.' Journal for the History of Astronomy

'The book gives a marvellous feel for the way that the exciting story of the discovery of the deep sky is developed. … Steinicke's book contains such a wealth of information in an easily accessible form that it must become the standard reference on the history of 19th-Century deep-sky astronomy for the foreseeable future. I am sure all with an interest in this aspect of the story of the discovery of the Universe will want to own or have access to it.' The Observatory

'I will predict that it will become a standard reference for students of astronomical history ... For the true astro-history buff, it is a treasure chest that contains the history of the New General Catalogue in minute detail; the discovers, the catalogers, the observatories and the telescopes that built the catalog are all to be found between its covers. I found it a fascinating read.' Ted Forte, Back Bay Observer

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