Monday, January 16, 2012

Uranometria Argentina: a Labour of Love

We have Frederick Pilcher to thank for the Uranometria Argentina making its way on to the web, and subsequently on to Vizier. What most people won't realize was that he entered all the data (original, as well as modern magnitudes and catalog references) by hand! In his own words:

After some investigation I learned that there was a copy of the original Uranometria Argentina at the library of Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, and arranged with the library staff to photocopy the entire tabulation plus a few additional pages of explanation. The photocopies I took home to type character by character into a plain text file, all 7700+ lines of data. Likewise all the modern data were added by hand. The entire task, fitted into spare time, required more than a year. I did exhaustive proofreading and found most of the typographical mistakes before ever putting the text file on-line.

Likewise by hand I entered the Gould numbers on to personal star charts, went out at
night, and using binoculars identified most of the Uranometria Argentina stars north of declination -50 degrees.

A remarkable effort. I came along later and helped with further proofreading, and the resulting data was loaded into Vizier. But without Frederick's herculean perseverance, none of it would have been possible. Thank you Frederick!


  1. Amazing post and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading through some of your earlier posts as well and decided to drop a comment on this one!

  2. Anonymous04 June, 2012

    What really gets to me is all (well, almost all) sources still list one of the nearest stars as 82 Eridani!