Star Catalogs

Star Catalogs

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The stellar catalogs they are lists that contain the positions of the stars and can be completed by planes with the configuration of the stars on the celestial sphere.

The oldest known catalog dates back to 130 BC. JC and it is due to Hipparchus of Nicea. It referred to some 850 stars of the brightest and for the first time the subdivision into classes of stellar magnitudes was introduced according to the apparent luminosity. Unfortunately this work has been lost and we only have indirect testimonies of it, but it is considered that a successive catalog of Ptolemy, published around 150 AD. JC in the Almagesto, he retakes the work of Hipparchus.

The first major modern catalog, containing objects up to the tenth magnitude, is the Bonner Durchmusterung (literally: Bonn Review), completed in 1862 by W. F. Argelander. It presents the coordinates of some 324,198 stars in the Northern Hemisphere. The review was later extended by Edward Schonfeld to the Tropic of Capricorn and, later, a group of Argentine astronomers completed it with the stars of the celestial South Pole.

Variable stars are classified in separate reviews: the general catalog of variable stars includes about 25,000. Nebulae, galaxies and star clusters are indicated by the letter M, or by the acronym NGC, followed by a number. The first of these symbols refers to the French astronomer Charles Messier, who, towards the end of the 18th century, compiled a catalog with nebulae, galaxies and star clusters up to a total of 45, visible in the Northern Hemisphere.

At the end of the 19th century Johannes Dreyer made a catalog of 7,840 objects, based, however, also on observations made previously by Herschel father and son. It was named New General Catalog of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars or, more briefly, NGC. Therefore, it is common to find in astronomy texts that, for example, the Crab nebula is indicated by M 1, because it is the first object classified in the Messier catalog, or NGC 1952, because it is the 1952 object of the catalog prepared by Dreyer.

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