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There were originally two such constellations, both introduced in 1789 by the Hungarian-born astronomer Maximilian Hell, director of the Vienna Observatory, in commemoration of William Herschel’s discovery of the planet Uranus. Hell first showed them on charts contained in the Ephemerides astronomicae (a yearly almanac) for the year 1790 published by the Vienna Observatory in 1789. The two constellations flanked the area in which the new planet was found. Tubus Hershelii Major, as Hell called it, represented Herschel’s 20-ft-long (6-m) telescope and lay between Gemini, Lynx, and Auriga. Tubus Hershelii Minor (again, Hell’s spelling), crammed awkwardly between Orion and the head of Taurus, represented Herschel’s 7-ft (2-m) reflector. Judging by the inaccurate representations, though, Hell had not seen either telescope.

Bode reduced the constellations to one in his Uranographia atlas of 1801 under the name Telescopium Herschelii, located where Hell had placed Tubus Hershelii Major. Bode, having bought telescopes from Herschel, knew what they looked like and he realistically depicted the 7-ft telescope with which Herschel actually made the discovery of Uranus.

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Telescopium Herschelii, depicting the reflecting telescope with which William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, on the Uranographia atlas of Johann Bode (1801).


© Ian Ridpath. All rights reserved


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