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Abbe Nicholas Louis de la Caille's Original Catalog of 1755

Nicholas Lacaille's catalog was one of the first more systematic Deep Sky catalogs in the history of the Discovery of the Deep Sky Objects.

Here we present a translation of the original Lacaille Catalog as printed in the Memoirs of the Royal Academy for 1755, pp. 194-199.

We also have the translation of Lacaille's catalog as printed as appendix to Messier's catalog of 1784.

On the nebulous Stars of the Southern Sky.

By M. l'Abbe de la Caille.

The stars which are called nebulae offer to the eyes of the Observers a yet varying spectacle, which for their exact & detailed description can occupy long times of an Astronomer, & give place for Philosophers to do a large number of curious reflections.

.. more to come ..

The list which I will give here is an extract of the Catalog of southern Stars which I have submitted to the Academy: I have not been able to distinguish the various nebulae in this catalog from the abridged notes, which are explained by the outline which I have composed; but for satisfying the curiosity of those who find these notes too vague, I will give here a short description of each nebula in particular.

LISTE of Nebulae of the first kind, or the nebulosities which are not accompanied by any star visible with a telescope of two feet [FL]

Ascension  Southern     [Lacaille's Description]             [Identification]
for Jan 1  Declina-
  1752       tion

 H. M. S    D. M. S.

00:22:54   73:26:50    It resembles the nucleus of a small   Lac I.1, NGC 104
                         comet very clearly.                 47 Tucanae
05:40:01   69:17:20    It resembles the preceding, but it    Lac I.2, NGC 2070
                         is fainter.                         30 Doradus, Tarantula Nebula
07:42:08   38:00:00    Great nebula 15 x 20 minutes          Lac I.3, NGC 2477
                         in diameter.
12:43:36   69:28:00    It resembles a small faint comet.     Lac I.4, NGC 4833
13:12:09   46:10:45    Nebula in Centaurus; it appears,      Lac I.5, NGC 5139
                       with simple view, like a star of      Omega Centauri
                       3rd magnitude viewed through light
                       mist, & through the telescope
                       like a big comet badly bounded.
13:23:16   28:35:30    Small nebula, shapeless.              Lac I.6, M83
13:29:34   61:40:10    Small confused spot.                  Lac I.7, NGC 5281
16:08:30   40:03:10    It resembles a big comet without      Lac I.8, NGC 6124
16:08:33   25:54:55    It resembles a small nucleus of a     Lac I.9, M4
                       faint comet.
16:38:36   39:02:00    Faint oval and elongated patch.       Lac I.10, NGC 6242
18:13:41   33:37:05    It resembles a small nucleus of a     Lac I.11, NGC 6634, probably not M69
                       comet.                                  but an asterism of 3 stars mag 8.3, 7.8, 8.7
18:21:19   24:05:00    It resembles the preceding.           Lac I.12, M22
18:58:10   71:55:45    It resembles the preceding.           Lac I.13, GC 4484, NGC 6777; 2 stars 8..9 mag
19:24:20   31:29:00    It resembles an obscure nucleus of    Lac I.14, M55
                       a big comet. 
It may be that some of these nebulae could really be a faint comet; the time has not permitted me to assure in researching in the sky, for looking if these stars are all still in the same place.

LISTE of nebulous Stars with clusters

Ascension  Southern     [Lacaille's Description]             [Identification]
for Jan 1  Declina-
  1752       tion

 H. M. S    D. M. S.

03:54:57, -45:09:40     Compressed heap of about 12 faint    Lac II.1, asterism
                        stars of 8th magnitude.
07:17:00, -33:40:00     Heap of 8 stars of 6th to 7th        Lac II.2, Cr 140?
                        magnitude, forming for simple view
                        [naked eye] a nebula in the sky.
07:54:45, -60:09:40     Group of 10 to 12 stars, very        Lac II.3, NGC 2516
08:02:00, -36:30:00     One sees with the naked eye two      Lac II.4, NGC 2546
                        neighboring confused groups of
                        stars; but with the telescope they
                        are small distinct stars, in very
                        great number & very close together  
08:31:46, -52:14:05     Small heap of stars.                 Lac II.5, IC 2391
                                                             o Velorum
08:37:46, -41:22:25     Heap of seven or eight stars,        Lac II.6, Tr 10?
                        little compressed.
10:11:45, -50:29:00     Heap of four or five stars, very     Lac II.7, NGC 3228
                        small and very compressed.
10:26:32, -56:56:05     Small heap of 4 small stars          Lac II.8, NGC 3293
                        forming a lozenge.
10:34:15, -63:06:16     The star Theta Navis, of the third   Lac II.9, IC 2602
                        magnitude or less, surrounded by a   Theta Carinae
                        large number of stars of 6th, 7th 
                        & 8th magnitude, which resemble
                        the Pleiades.
10:56:08, -57:19:30     Prodigal cluster of small stars,     Lac II.10, NGC 3532
                        very compressed, filling the figure
                        of a semi-circle of 20 to 25
                        minutes in diameter.
11:12:00, -56:58:30     Seven or eight small stars           Lac II.11, asterism
                        compressed in a right line.
12:39:13, -59:00:30     Five or six small stars between two  Lac II.12, NGC 4755
                        of sixth magnitude.                  Kappa Crucis
16:36:55, -41:23:10     compressed heap of seven or eight    Lac II.13, NGC 6231
                        small stars.
17:37:12, -34:39:55     Group of 15 or 20 stars very close   Lac II.14, M7
                        together, in the figure of a square.

LISTE of Stars accompanied by nebulosity

Ascension  Southern     [Lacaille's Description]             [Identification]
for Jan 1  Declina-
  1752       tion

 H. M. S    D. M. S.

04:56:56, -49:51:30     Small star surrounded by a           Lac III.1, star
08:03:30, -48:31:00     Five small stars, under the figure   Lac III.2, NGC 2547
                        of a T, surrounded by nebulosity.
08:34:20, -47:13:10     Star of 6th magnitude, connected to  Lac III.3, vdB-Ha 47?
                        another more southern one by a
                        nebulous trace.
09:20:22, -55:55:30     Faint star surrounded by nebulosity. Lac III.4, IC 2488
10:34:30, -58:49:10     Two small stars surrounded by        Lac III.5, Cr 228?
                        nebulosity.                          in NGC 3372
10:34:45, -58:12:25     Large group of a great number of     Lac III.6, NGC 3372
                        small stars, little compressed, and  Eta Carinae
                        filling out the space of a kind of
                        a semi-circle of 15 to 20 minutes
                        in diameter; with a slight
                        nebulosity widespread in space.
11:24:49, -60:15:00     Three small neighbored stars,        Lac III.7, NGC 3766
                        surrounded by nebulosity.
14:17:43, -55:27:50     Two small stars in a nebulosity.     Lac III.8, NGC 5662
15:03:16, -58:14:30     idem.                                Lac III.9, asterism of 3 stars
15:42:56, -59:46:50     Three small stars in a right line,   Lac III.10, NGC 6025
                        surrounded by nebulosity.
17:20:38, -53:31:30     Small star envelopped in a           Lac III.11, NGC 6397
17:24:00, -32:02:45     Peculiar cluster of small stars,     Lac III.12, M6
                        disposed in three parallel bands,
                        forming a lozenge of 20 to 25
                        diameter & hitched with nebulosity.
17:48:41, -24:20:15     Three stars enclosed in a drag of    Lac III.13, M8
                        a nebula parallel to the Equator. 
21:12:53, -57:57:15     Two small stars surrounded by        Lac III.14, asterism of 3 stars
I haven't noticed any star above the sixth magnitude which was surrounded or accompanied by nebulosity.

[Coalsack dark nebula]
One can yet mention among the phenomena which strike the view of those who look at the southern sky, a space of about three degrees in extension, in all directions, which appears in a black dark in the eastern part of the southern cross.This appearance is caused by the vividness of the whiteness of the milky way, which encloses this space & which surrounds it on all sides.

Translation was done by Hartmut Frommert; please report me any errors

Hartmut Frommert
Christine Kronberg

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