21 April 2015

What Was Old Is New Again

November 1965 Sky & Telescope
Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Jim Mullaney speak at the Southern Star Astronomical Convention in North Carolina. Jim is a prolific author and longtime contributor to Sky & Telescope magazine. In one of his talks, Jim mentioned a series of articles that he and Wallace McCall wrote years ago called 'The Finest Deep-Sky Objects'. The articles were published in 3 issues of Sky & Telescope spanning November 1965 through January 1966.

The objects selected for the articles met the simple criteria that they had to be bright enough and the correct size to be impressive when viewed through telescopes of various apertures from the latitude of the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The list encompassed 105 objects that were popular on public observing nights over a 5 year period.

The articles are important even 50 years later because visual impressions of the authors are included - information quite useful to any observer. While the list is a wonderful guide for novice observers, it is also a very useful list for any observer preparing for a public observing session. While over half the objects included are double stars, there are excellent examples of all types of objects in the lists.

The objects listed in the articles are now available as an observing plan file for Deep-Sky Planner. It can be downloaded by licensed users from the Plan Library. The plan contains 119 objects because several of the objects in Mullaney & McCall's lists are multiple star systems; Deep-Sky Planner lists multiple pairs of stars in these cases.

These lists remain a timeless guide for astronomical observers with telescopes of moderate sizes.