2016 schedule

Sun 14:00-14:30
Theatre 104

Visual Observation of the Magellanic Clouds, Past and Present

Alan Plummer


Of all the night sky, no fields are so rich or challenging to observe than the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. What follows are some highlights of historical observations of these fields, along with recent visual variable star estimates of selected stars. The first research article mentioning the Clouds available here was published in 1774, after Neville Maskelyne’s trip to the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. 60 years later the really pivotal work was undertaken by John Herschel from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. In fact, in my opinion Herschel’s chart of the Large Magellanic Cloud published in 1847 is of more practical use than some high profile modern charts of the area. Several stars in the current observing program can be found on this chart. Recent observations focus on what has been done from Linden Observatory west of Sydney, but other people’s work is introduced as much as possible. An unexpected result of writing this talk is that a much more useful observing program of these two galaxies is in place today than existed before.