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Rediscovering the Bedford Catalogue for the 21st Century

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regulus33's picture
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Rediscovering the Bedford Catalogue for the 21st Century

In 1844, Captain William Henry Smyth RN published two volumes entitled A Cycle of Celestial Objects. Volume 1 or Prolegomena described in detail Smyth’s observatory in Bedford and his observing techniques. It is volume 2, The Bedford Catalogue, which is still of interest to the 21st century amateur astronomer.

Many of the object designations in the Bedford Catalogue are now anachronistic, and precession has shifted positions from the epoch 1840.0 Smyth provides.  It had therefore become no longer possible to directly use his work as an observing guide.  I have modernised the object designations for the entire catalogue of 850 objects (also covering the additional objects covered in Smyth's object descriptions.   This makes it possible to once again use the Bedford Catalogue with Smyth's keen, and detailed notes being as useful to the 21st century observer as they were in 1844. 

I want to make this available as widely as possible to re-encourage visual observing with telescopes.  James Whinfrey at the Webb Society has kindly posted the updated list and my explanation on the Webb Society's pages at https://www.webbdeepsky.com/articles/rediscovering-the-bedford-catalogue

The Bedford Catalogue has been re-printed by Willard-Bell (Webb Society has some copies for sale) and pdf facsimiles are available on the internet.  I have given the details in my explanatory article.

Grant Privett's picture
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Like Webb?

I have read my copy of Webb's book several times and generally enjoy it for the style and language rather than anything else. Is that much the same with Smyth? 

regulus33's picture
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Webb and Smyth

Webb is good in his descriptive text but for the deep sky objects he says relatively little.  This is where Smyth is more rewarding as his notes are much more extensive. The style and language are similar.  Smyth and Webb definitely knew each other, they will have met at the RAS and were certainly in correspondence.  Smyth mentions observations of Albireo by Webb in his Sidereal Chromatics published in 1864.