Derham's Catalog of 16 "Nebulous Stars"

In 1733, William Derham published a list of 16 nebulae in his contribution to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Derham 1733), 14 of which he had found in Hevelius' Prodomus Astronomiae. The only real objects described by Hevelius are the Andromeda Galaxy M31 (see below) and the Praesepe star cluster M44 (not in the list below, as Derham did not list recognized clusters), as well as the two objects added by Derham himself. As Derham's publication got fairly widespread, many astronomers after him, including Messier, spent a lot of time to look for the 12 non-existing objects without being able to find anything significant.
RA (1660)   Dec (1660)   Id    Description

006:04:45 39:27:57 N M31 In Andromeda's Girdle, 300:02:53 20:01:53 S - * In Forehead of Capricorn, 301:59:55 19:11:30 S - * Another preceding the Eye of Capricorn, 302:35:09 19:36:00 S - * Another following it, 302:25:31 18:48:58 S - * One above those, adjoining to the Eye of Capricorn, 304:54:08 47:54:20 N - * Preceding above the Swan's Tail, and last in its N. Foot 312:10:05 53:05:20 N - * One following a Star above the Swan's Tail, out of the Constellation 264:52:64 48:09:10 N - On the outside of Hercules left Foot 265:38:37 38:05:50 N - In the left Leg of Hercules, 252:24:03 13:18:37 N - * On the Top of Hercules's Head, 332:38:45 03:03:12 N - * At the Ear of Pegasus, 272:32:34 14:23:35 S - In the Western Border of Sobieski's Shield, 219:26:15 09:16:27 S - Under the Beam of the Scales of Libra, 183:32:41 60:20:33 N [M40] Above the Back of Ursa major,
An asterix (*) marks entries Messier has found to be non-existent and described in his List of Objects reported by previous observers but not found by Messier himself.

Derham lists two more objects in this list with ecliptical coordinates, which were identified e.g. by De Chéseaux:

252:43:00   19:01:00 S  NGC 6231?  In the third joint of Scorpio's Tail,
264:32:00   11:25:00 S   M7        Between Scorpio's Tail and the Bow of Sagittarius,
Derham mentions that he also observed 5 of the 6 objects in Halley's list of 6 "Nebulae" (all but Omega Centauri which is too south), and found one, M11 in Antinous/Scutum, to be a cluster; apparently he was the frist to resolve M11 into stars.


  • History of the Discovery of the Deepsky Objects
  • More Deepsky Catalogs and Observing Lists
  • Some other historical catalogs

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: February 8, 1998