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This constellation first appeared on the Uranographia atlas of Johann Elert Bode in 1801, but it was suggested to him in 1798 by the French astronomer Joseph Jérôme de Lalande to honour the hot-air balloon invented by the Montgolfier brothers. The balloon lay south of Aquarius and Capricornus.

In his Histoire Abrégée de l’Astronomie, Lalande recalled that Nicolas Louis de Lacaille had placed instruments of science and arts among the stars of the southern hemisphere, and explained: “I thought the greatest discovery of the French deserved to occupy a place.” At the same time, he and Bode agreed to introduce a constellation representing Gutenberg’s printing press; this became Bode’s Officina Typographica. History shows that the printing press has been more influential than the hot-air balloon, but neither remain among the recognized constellations.

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Globus Aerostaticus, shown on the same chart as Capricornus in the Uranographia of Johann Bode (1801). To the left of it is the tail of the southern fish, Piscis Austrinus.



© Ian Ridpath. All rights reserved


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