The Astrographic Catalogue

The Carte du Ciel enterprise
A brief historical account The Astrographic Catalogue The sky charts

The Astrographic Catalogue

Sky zone assigned to carried out by Catalogues
+90° to +65°  Greenwich Royal Observatory, GREENWICH, Great Britain
+64° to +55° Vatican Specola Vaticana, CITTÀ DEL VATICANO
+54° to +47° Catania R. Osservatorio Astrofisico, CATANIA, Italy
+46° to +40° Helsingfors Observatoire Astronomique de l’Université de Helsingfors, HELSINKI, Finland
+39° to +32° Potsdam Potsdam,
Astrophysikalische Observatorium zu Potsdam, POTSDAM, Germany
+31° to +25° Oxford University Observatory, OXFORD, Great Britain
+24° to +18° Paris Observatoire de Paris, PARIS, France
+17° to +11°  Bordeaux Observatoire de Bordeaux, BORDEAUX, France
+11° to +05°  Toulouse Observatoire de Toulouse, TOULOUSE, France
+04° to -02°  Algiers Observatoire d’Alger, ALGER, Algeria
-03° to -09° San Fernando Observatorio de Marina de SAN FERNANDO, Spain
-10° to -16° Tacubaya Observatorio Astronomico de Tacubaya, MEXICO
-17° to -23° Santiago Hyderabad Nizamiah Observatory, HYDERABAD, India
-24° to -32° La Plata Cordoba Observatorio Nacional Argentino, CORDOBA, Argentina
-33° to -40° Rio de Janeiro Perth Perth Observatory, PERTH, Australia
-41° to -51° Cape of Good Hope Royal Observatory, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, South Africa
-52° to -64° Sydney Sydney Observatory, SYDNEY, Australia
-65° to -90° Melbourne Melbourne Observatory, MELBOURNE, Australia


The separate sections making the Astrographic Catalog, each covering a given declination zone, have been released during a time period spanning for almost a century, and appear quite different from one another in format, sometimes in contents. For example, some observatories give only the linear coordinates (Bordeaux), some both the linear and the spherical ones (Paris), some add proper motions (Greenwich).


This lack of “standardization” in publication can make it difficult to recognize the astrographic catalogue proper from a wealth of other publications which are just related to and not part of it. Some volumes bearing “Astrographic catalogue” on the title page and even a volume number, in reality present data pertaining to other enterprises. On the contrary, what is titled “appendix” can sometimes contain fundamental information integrating the whole section of the catalogue.


The section published by the Vatican Observatory is emblematic of the above discrepancies: whereas vol. 11 does not contain Astrographic catalogue data, three of the five appendixes (e.g. 1, 2 and 5) contain essential information, including an errata corrige.

And what about the following “mysterious” volume printed by the Vatican Observatory, different in format from the others and published in Italian?


Catalogo fotografico stellare, zona Vaticana (da +55° a +65° di declinazione) : coordinate rettilinee e costanti di correzione, Volume I (Zone + 60° +61° e +62°). – Roma : Tipografia Vaticana, 1903.


Only by reading the Carte du Ciel correspondence [1] could I figure out that this publication was a mistake: in a letter of 13 March 1909 addressed to the Committee in charge of the Carte du Ciel project, J.G. Hagen S.J. (1847-1930), Director of the Vatican Observatory, explains: […] Pour les mesures des clichés du catalogue l’Observatoire a reçu deux nouvelles machines de Repsold et le personnel nécessaure a été engagé. Les mesures publiées en 1903 come Volume I du Catalogue seront refraites avec les nouvelles machines, et rangées suivant les déclinaisons. Par conséquent le volume susdit est à considérer comme non valable.


At the Palermo library we hold the majority of the Astrographic catalogue volumes, which allowed me to compile the following preliminary description of the AC. However, there are still doubts (expressed as questions, in red ink), especially on the number of volumes making each section, so I looked through online catalogues of other astronomical libraries or national libraries and was able to integrate some of the missing information. A great help came from the “Catalogue References” available in the website of the IAU Commission 8 working group on the AC and CdC plates – no longer existing.


Thanks are due to Sally Bosken of US Naval Observatory for kindly sending descriptions for v. 4-6 of the Tacubaya Observatory section.


[1] I. Chinnici, La Carte du Ciel, Observatoire de Paris, Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo G.S. Vaiana, 1999, pl. 40.