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William Herschel and the Flamsteed Numbers
William Herschel and the Flamsteed Numbers

Thu, 19 Oct



William Herschel and the Flamsteed Numbers

by Dr Wolfgang Steinicke The lecture shows the origin of the commonly used Flamsteed star numbers, like 61 Cygni. They are notoriously absent from both Flamsteed’s British Catalogue and the Atlas Coelestis, published in 1725 and 1729, respectively.

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Time & Location

19 Oct 2023, 19:00 – 21:00

London, 90 Mycenae Rd, London SE3 7SE, UK

About the Event

It is now known that the Berlin astronomer Johann Elert Bode introduced these numbers; some can be found as early as 1774 in his Astronomisches Jahrbuch. William Herschel was not aware of this source when he bought the British Catalogue in 1777, which he hardly used at first. This was to change in September 1781 when he obtained the Atlas Coelestis and began a systematic search for double stars near Flamsteed stars. In order to be able to identify them more easily, he developed a numbering system himself. Soon William’s sister Caroline was handwriting the numbers in the copy of the atlas.


Dr Wolfgang Steinicke studied astrophysics and mathematics in Germany. He received his doctorate from the University of Hamburg with a thesis on Observing and Cataloging Nebulae and Star Clusters: From Herschel to Dreyer's New General Catalogue. (Cambridge University Press, 2010). He is interested in non-stellar objects, their data and historical sources. Steinicke is the author of 12 books (in German and English) and has published more than 300 scientific papers. His latest work is entitled William Herschel - Discoverer of the Deep Sky. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS), Director of the History of Astronomy Section of the German “Vereinigung der Sternfreunde”, Committee Member of the Herschel Society (Bath) and the Webb Deep Sky Society, and has recently joined the Society for the History of Astronomy. He organizes astronomy meetings and gives lectures and seminars around the world.

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