The Herschel 400, compiled by the members of the Ancient City Astronomy Club in St. Augustine, Florida, is a selection of 400 of the best and brightest deep sky objects from Sir William Herschel’s catalogue of nearly 2500 entries (mostly galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae). The list was created in 1976 in response to a letter from James Mullaney on page 235 of the April 1976 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.
Herschel, who accounted himself well as musician, composer, and astronomer, was a contemporary of Messier but went far beyond him to systematically survey the night skies using the largest instruments of his day (which he also built himself). Herschel’s designations for these objects are now obsolete so we currently use the New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (or NGC) designation. William’s sister Caroline (an accomplished astronomer herself) assisted him in this endeavor and they devoted most of their lives to their passion of observing the night sky. I figured the least I could do is devote a year or two of clear evenings to observing the finest of their discoveries.
I have placed four sketches on a page for this project except for NGC 7000, the North America Nebula, which is on a supplemental sheet. There are only 99 pages with four sketches instead of 100 because page H8 contains two double entries; page H9 contains one double entry; and page H10 contains one double entry. This accounts for all 400 Herschels.
I used the book Observe the Herschel Objects by the Ancient City Astronomy Club as a guide (along with The Night Sky Observer’s Guide by Kepple and Sanner). Since it was spring of 2004 when I started this project, I began numbering pages with the spring section of the book, however my numbering scheme got disrupted at one point. Looking back, I should have done the numbering differently. Oh, well.
When I started the Herschel 400 on the 10th of March, 2004, I didn’t know how long it would take me to do them. Considering that the Messier’s took two years, I thought it might take as long as four years (Tom Polakis’ excellent June 1995 Astronomy magazine article Deep Sky on Four a Day, in which he tells about doing the Herschel 400 in 100 nights, notwithstanding). I didn’t rush through the list. I took my time and enjoyed the process of observing and sketching. Most nights I only did one or two objects. On weekend nights I would do three or four. Only in the last couple of months did I push a little, some nights doing eight to ten. You become eager to finish when you near the end, and objects were in danger of disappearing beyond the western horizon. I didn’t want to wait several months to pick them up again in the east in the early morning. So, it ended up taking 170 nights over a period of two years and a little over three months to finish.
I do not consider these drawings to be “works of art,” merely field sketches. I tried to be as accurate as I could be but still finish each sketch in a reasonable amount of time. They are my impressions of what I saw through the eyepiece. Viewing conditions varied a great deal. I’m sure this is reflected in the amount of detail recorded here.
For finding most of the objects here the Sky Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion was perfectly adequate. Where more precise position determination was required, I used Uranometria 2000.0 by Tirion, Rappaport & Remaklus, or charts in the afore mentioned Night Sky Observer’s Guide. For really tough ones, I sometimes searched the internet and printed out photos of the objects with the surrounding star-field to match against what I could see through the eyepiece.
The Herschel 400 includes sixteen Messier objects. The brightest object is about magnitude 3.9 and the dimmest about 14.6. The largest object is about 120 arcminutes by 100 arcminutes and the smallest is about 15 arcseconds. The list consists of 231 galaxies, 100 open clusters, 34 globular clusters, 24 planetary nebulae, 6 gaseous nebulae, and 5 combination open clusters and gaseous nebulae.
Most of these observations were made with my 12.5” Dob from my small Blue Moon Observatory in western Tennessee.
N40, N129, N136, N157, N185, N205, N225, N246, N247, N253, N278, N288, N381, N404, N436, N457, N488, N524, N559, N584, N596, N598, N613, N615, N637, N650-651, N654, N659, N663, N720, N752, N772, N779, N869, N884, N891, N908, N936, N1022, N1023, N1027, N1052, N1055, N1084, N1245, N1342, N1407, N1444, N1501, N1502, N1513, N1528, N1535, N1545, N1647, N1664, N1750, N1788, N1817, N1857, N1907, N1931, N1961, N1964, N1980, N1999, N2022, N2024, N2126, N2129, N2158, N2169, N2185, N2186, N2194, N2204, N2215, N2232, N2244, N2251, N2264, N2266, N2281, N2286, N2301, N2304, N2311, N2324, N2335, N2343, N2353, N2354, N2355, N2360, N2362, N2371, N2372info, N2372sketch, N2392, N2395, N2403, N2419, N2420, N2421, N2422, N2423, N2438, N2440, N2479, N2482, N2489, N2506, N2509, N2527, N2539, N2548, N2567, N2571, N2613, N2627, N2655, N2681, N2683, N2742, N2768, N2775, N2782, N2787, N2811, N2841, N2859, N2903, N2950, N2964, N2974, N2976, N2985, N3034, N3077, N3079, N3115, N3147, N3166, N3169, N3184, N3190, N3193, N3198, N3226, N3227, N3242, N3245, N3277, N3294, N3310, N3344, N3377, N3379, N3384, N3395, N3412, N3414, N3432, N3486, N3489, N3504, N3521, N3556, N3593, N3607, N3608, N3610, N3613, N3619, N3621, N3626, N3628, N3631, N3640, N3655, N3665, N3675, N3686, N3726, N3729, N3810, N3813, N3877, N3893, N3898, N3900, N3912, N3938, N3941, N3945, N3949, N3953, N3962, N3982, N3992, N3998, N4026, N4027, N4030, N4036, N4038, N4041, N4051, N4085info, N4085sketch, N4088, N4102, N4111, N4143, N4147, N4150, N4151, N4179, N4203, N4214, N4216, N4245, N4251, N4258, N4261, N4273, N4274, N4278, N4281info, N4281sketch, N4293, N4303, N4314, N4346, N4350, N4361, N4365, N4371, N4394, N4414, N4419, N4429, N4435info, N4435sketch, N4438, N4442, N4448, N4449, N4450, N4459, N4473, N4477, N4478, N4485, N4490, N4494, N4526, N4527, N4535, N4536, N4546, N4548, N4550, N4559, N4565, N4570, N4594, N4596, N4618, N4631, N4636, N4643, N4654, N4656, N4660, N4665, N4666, N4689, N4697, N4698, N4699, N4725, N4753, N4754, N4762info, N4762sketch, N4781, N4800, N4845, N4856, N4866, N4900, N4958, N4995, N5005, N5033, N5054, N5195, N5248, N5273, N5322, N5363, N5364, N5466, N5473, N5474, N5557, N5566, N5576, N5631, N5634, N5676, N5689, N5694, N5746, N5846, N5866, N5897, N5907, N5982, N6118, N6144, N6171, N6207, N6217, N6229, N6235, N6284, N6287, N6293, N6304, N6316, N6342, N6355, N6356, N6369, N6401, N6426, N6440, N6445, N6451, N6514, N6517, N6520, N6522, N6528, N6540, N6543, N6544, N6553, N6568, N6569, N6583, N6624, N6629, N6633, N6638, N6642, N6645, N6664, N6712, N6755, N6756, N6781, N6802, N6818, N6823, N6826, N6830, N6834, N6866, N6882, N6885, N6905, N6910, N6934, N6939, N6940, N6946, N7000info, N7000sketch, N7006, N7008, N7009, N7044, N7062, N7086, N7128, N7142, N7160, N7209, N7217, N7243, N7296, N7331, N7380, N7448, N7479, N7510, N7606, N7662, N7686, N7723, N7727, N7789, N7790