William Herschel's catalog of Deep Sky objects

[herschel.gif] Thanks to Bill Arnett, William Herschel's catalog is available online. Bill acknowledges David Bishop for making it available. You have the following options: More material on Friedrich Wilhelm (William) Herschel: William Herschel was usually carefully avoiding to number the Messier objects, in appreciation of Messier's prior work. However, he of course numbered the missing and the additional (i.e., later added) objects, as he did not look at them as Messier's "nebulae". Erroneously, he also numbered some of the Messier objects though, and in some cases, parts of Messier objects. Look at the complete list.

Almost all of Herschel's objects (even the non-existing, erroneous entries) have also obtained an NGC number; there are only four or five exceptions.

William Herschel's sister Caroline, who assisted him in recording his observations, did a number of own deepsky discoveries; look at her list.

As the most renowned astronomer of his time, William Herschel contributed significantly to most branches of astronomy: Besides searching clusters and nebulae, he discovered planet Uranus in 1781, two satellites of Uranus, Titania and Oberon, in 1787, and Saturn's moons Mimas and Enceladus in 1789, he investigated the proper motion of stars and derived the peculiar motion of the solar system toward the direction of constellation Hercules, modelled the Milky Way galaxy from stellar statistics, and speculated about the nature of the nebulae, including a discussion of the possibility of external island universes (galaxies) which had been brought up by Kant. He also contributed to physics (especially optics) and, e.g., discovered the infrared light.

Thanks to Arild Mikalsen from Norway for contributing some corrections to this page !


  • Other Deep Sky catalogs suitable for the amateur
  • History of the Discovery of the Deepsky Objects


    Hartmut Frommert (spider@seds.org).
    Christine Kronberg (smil@lrz.uni-muenchen.de)

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    Last Modification: 8 Feb 1998, 20:00 MET