John Herschel's notes from the Cape
Read a few excerpts from the great astronomer's journal from studying the Southern Hemisphere skies.
February 25, 2013
In January 1834, John Herschel and his
family arrived from England in the Cape Colony of what is now South
Africa. His mission was to survey the southern skies like he had done
the north. Herschel kept a journal throughout his four years
there, documenting his daily activities, dinner parties, the landscape,
and, of course, his observations. What follows is a selection of his
John Herschel's observations from Cape Town laid the foundations for the General Catalogue of the skies. // Andy Burns/Herschel Museum of Astronomy
Notice Herschel's attention to detail when describing the landscape in
his excerpt from April 20, 1834; his excitement over Halley's comet throughout 1835; his entries concerning his invention of
the "astrometer" in March 1836; and most notably, his description of
Eta Carina's brightening in December 1837. Because the journal was
Herschel's private notes, there are many abbreviations in the text. When
the entries were compiled and published as a collection, they were
preserved in their original form as close as possible.
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