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Ordinary Meeting: "James Dunlop – the Draughtsman"

Speaker: Harry Roberts, ASNSW

Abstract: James Dunlop was the first to record ‘deep sky’ objects in Australia. His regular job was at Parramatta Observatory – but there they were cataloguing stellar objects only. When that work was interrupted, in his own time, with a scope of his own making, he viewed and recorded all the southern deep sky objects that he could. The resulting catalogue was presented to Thomas Brisbane (his boss) and after engraving was read before the Royal Society by John Herschel (no-less!). History may have been unkind to Dunlop, and for a variety of reasons he never became the “Southern Messier”. He had logged six hundred objects, and while only about 200 are now firmly identified, the speaker admits to a growing respect for Dunlop the draughtsman – Dunlop numbers do not enjoy wide usage (unlike Messier numbers). This talk is not a scholarly one – nor is it a passionate defence of Dunlop the observer. However, his published catalogue contains some drawings and we will consider a few in the light of modern knowledge of the objects, since amateurs know most of them quite well. Some the speaker has sketched for himself; some we will compare with modern photos. It is suggested that many Dunlop objects await ‘rediscovery’ (Cousins, et al.) and we will discuss the possibility of finding some of Dunlop’s “missing objects”. On-line precession software exists – making this task easier – and we will discuss two possible ‘rediscoveries’. Follow-up observation with telescopes similar to those of Dunlop is a very useful amateur project. You too will share my respect for this interesting figure from our past, whom we may imagine seated at his 9” 'scope on a chilly night in his “backyard” at “Parra” –‘grabbing’ new-found deep-sky objects out of the heavens - describing, locating, and sometimes sketching them. It was a ‘frenzy of discovery’ covering much less than a year! This excitement is something we may also feel as we push our 'scopes around the night sky.

Biography: Harry Roberts is a long standing member of ASNSW and a regular contributor to Universe. He is well known for his solar observing and sketching of the sun and the moon.

Event Date: 
Friday, 6 July, 2012 - 20:00
Epping Creative Centre, 26 Stanley Road, Epping NSW

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