Hevelius presents his new constellations
Johannes Hevelius (1611–87), centre foreground, bends his knee in supplication as he presents his new constellations for approval to Urania, the muse of astronomy, and an array of great astronomers of the past*. This engraving forms the frontispiece to Hevelius’s star atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum dated 1687, the year of his death, but not published until 1690.
In his right hand Hevelius carries a shield, representing his new constellation Scutum, while in his left hand he carries his astronomical sextant, commemorated by Sextans. Behind him come his other constellations representing animals (see enlargement below), led by little Lacerta , the lizard. Following that is Vulpecula cum Anser, the fox and goose; the two hunting dogs, Canes Venatici; above them are Leo Minor and Lynx; and, at top left of this detail, is a three-headed snake representing Cerberus, the monster that guarded the gates of Hades. Cerberus was later dropped by astronomers, but the seven other constellations shown here remain in the sky. There is no sign in this illustration of two additional Hevelius inventions, Mons Maenalus (a subdivision of Boötes) and Triangulum Minus (a subdivision of Triangulum), both now obsolete.
In the wings of the main image are small representations of some existing constellations – Taurus with Canis Major and Minor on the left and, at right, Aries, Ursa Major, Capricornus, Leo, Lyra, and Cygnus.
* This judging panel of astronomical greats is arranged in roughly chronological order outwards from Urania. On the left (Urania’s right) are Hipparchus, Timocharis (who actually preceded Hipparchus and hence is out of order), Ulugh Beg, Tycho, and Bernhard Walther (‘Walterus’). On the right are Ptolemy, Albategnius, Wilhelm IV (the Landgrave of Hesse, here termed ‘Princeps Hass’), Regiomontanus, and Copernicus. The inclusion of Wilhelm IV might seem surprising, as he is much less well known today than the others, but in the 16th century he was a respected astronomer who compiled a notable star catalogue. Hevelius reprinted the observations of Wilhelm in his own catalogue, along with those of Tycho, Riccioli, Ulugh Beg, and Ptolemy.
Six Hevelius constellations, seen in an enlargement from the lower left corner of the illustration above. At top left is the triple-headed Cerberus (now obsolete), with Lynx and the two dogs of Canes Venatici below it. Ahead of Lynx is Leo Minor. At centre is Vulpecula the fox carrying off Anser the goose (now simply called Vulpecula), with Lacerta at lower right.
Boötes (incl. Mons Maenalus)
Corona (= Corona Borealis)
Lacerta sive Stellio
Lynx sive Tigris
Navis (= Argo)
Scutum Sobiescianum (= Scutum)
Serpentarius (= Ophiuchus)
Sextans Uraniae (= Sextans)
Triangulum Majus (= Triangulum)
Vulpecula cum Anser (= Vulpecula)
Hevelius’s catalogue was published posthumously in 1690 under the title Catalogus Stellarum Fixarum, with an accompanying star atlas, Firmamentum Sobiescianum. In all, the catalogue contains 1,564 entries. However, 13 of these are duplicates. There are another 18 for which Hevelius made no observations of his own but took positions from other catalogues. Therefore, the total number of separate objects in the catalogue with positions determined by Hevelius is 1,533. The total for Andromeda includes the Andromeda Galaxy, M31. For a detailed analysis see The Star Catalogue of Hevelius by Frank Verbunt and Robert van Gent.
The 56 constellations catalogued by Hevelius
with the number of stars tabulated in each