From Flamsteed to Piazzi and Lalande: new standards in 18th century astrometry⋆
LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, 61 Av. de l’Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
Received: 28 March 2014
Accepted: 18 May 2014
Aims. The present high accuracy of stellar positions and proper motions allows us to determine the positional accuracy of old stellar catalogues. This has already been done for the most important catalogues from before the 18th century. Our aim is to extend this study to several 18th century catalogues.
Methods. To do this, I studied ten catalogues: those of Flamsteed and Rømer, four catalogues of La Caille, and catalogues of Tobias Mayer, Bradley, Piazzi, and Lalande. A comparison with modern data, mostly from Hipparcos, compiled in the Simbad database of the CDS allowed me to determine the position errors of these catalogues. I also compared the stellar visual magnitudes given in eight of these catalogues with photometric V magnitudes.
Results. Thanks to novel instruments, the rms positional accuracy improved from thousands to hundreds of arcsec in older catalogues to less than one minute in that of Flamsteed, and to 2−6 arcsec in the other catalogues I examined. These improvements allowed for the first time relatively accurate proper motions to be determined by 19th century astronomers.
Key words: history and philosophy of astronomy / astrometry / catalogs
The catalogues with some corrections are available in digital form at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (188.8.131.52) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/567/A26
© ESO, 2014