The Herschel 400
The Herschel 400 are deep-sky objects to be attempted by advanced amateur astronomer that require all of the observing skills developed in obtaining the Messier Pin. All objects can be seen in telescopes 5 inches or bigger.
Download the Complete Herschel 400 list in Microsoft Excel 2000 format, with Tirion star map references.
Information from the Astronomical League Website:
The New General Catalog (NGC) was a compilation of several deep-sky catalogs circa 1880; it contained almost 8,000 objects of which 2,477 of these objects were observed by William Herschel. Ancient City Astronomy Club (A. C. A. C.) members began the difficult process of separating his objects, which used a rather unique classification system with eight sub-categories; each individual object was placed into a particular subcategory.
These subcategories are:
It was soon discovered that a vast majority of Herschel's objects were in Class II and III, faint and very faint nebulae, with magnitudes fainter than thirteen, beyond the reach of many amateur telescopes. We of the A.C.A.C. decided that the proposed Herschel Club should consist of enough objects to present a distinct challenge, yet still be within range of amateurs who possessed only modest equipment and were affected by moderate light-pollution problems. After considerable study, we set 400 as the best number of objects to comprise the Herschel Club. Our main references through this process were the Atlas of the Heavens and Atlas of the Heavens Catalog by Antonin Becvar. These two volumes are readily available to the amateur astronomer and contained all the positions, magnitudes and other pertinent data used in this manual.
All the objects can be seen in a six-inch or larger telescope. All descriptions have been taken from observations by two or more members of the A. C. A. C.; most of these observations were made from within the city of St. Augustine, with approximately 14,000 population, in average to good sky conditions. Faintest naked eye star visible at the zenith was about 5.5 magnitude in most cases. You will notice a few Messier objects in the listings, also the Double Cluster, along with most of the brighter deep-sky objects that did not find their way into Messier's Catalog. However, beyond these few bright ones, the rest of the Herschel Club objects are faint and inconspicuous. The Virgo galaxy field along with the Monoceros Milky Way will present the toughest challenges.
This is meant to be an advanced project for amateurs who already have a fair degree of deep-sky experience. Anyone just starting out should go for the Messier Club first, this will provide the basic groundwork that this project is built on. To those who engage in or complete work on the Herschel Club you can be assured that you will know the sky and the instrument you are using; you will also know your own observing skill. Finally, you will have the curiosity and knowledge that are so important when studying the vast and beautiful universe that we live in.
Fellow observer Stephen Saber has a book out on
observing the Herschel objects. Here's the information if you wish to take
on this fun project:
THE STARHOPPERS GUIDE TO THE HERSCHEL 400
An excellent tool for the deep sky enthusiast and a must-have for those attempting the Astronomical League's Herschel 400 Observe Program
220 pages only $24.95 + $3.00 shipping
(Astro-tom.com note: No… I don't get any kickback on sales of the book - it's just a great book!)
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Herschel 400 Links:
Observing the Herschels - A Perspective
Herschel 400 Listing for Observations and Tracking