Johann Gottfried Koehler's Deepsky Catalog

On December 17, 1778, Johann Gottfried Koehler communicated to Bode a list of 20 nebulous objects, which was published in the "Astronomisches Jahrbuch" for 1782 (Koehler and Bode, 1779). The original list contains one original discovery (of M67), the article in the Jahrbuch two further apparently original findings, of M59 and M60. In addition, an apparent independent finding by Koehler of M3 was announced in the "Jahrbuch" for 1785 (Koehler and Bode, 1782).

We also have the original Koehler catalog online.

No.     ID

1 M22 2 M28 3 M8 4 M10 5 M12 6 M27 7 M71 8A M81 8B M82 9 Asterism? (Sigma1, Sigma2 and Rho UMa) 10 M36 11 M38 12 Asterism (63, 64, 65 and 66 And) 13 M5 14 M2 15 M15 16 ? 17A ? 17B ? 18 M13? 19 ! M67 20 M11? ! M59 ! M60
M3 (addition of June 17, 1782)
The descriptions and drawings of Koehler's numbers 9, 12, 16, 17A and 17B are too inacurate for a safe identifiation of these objects; most of the drawings are completely useless for this purpose. Kenneth Glyn Jones (1969) identified No. 9 and 12 as probable asterisms, states that No. 16 is too unsafe for identification (the position is near the star 3 Vul in the Milky Way). No. 17 is left unclear, but he gives the speculation that this might perhaps be M51, a speculation the present author rates as extremely doubtful.

In addition to the objects listed, Bode announces that on May 5, 1779, Koehler had found "three other somewhat nebulous stars in the area of the northern shoulder of Virgo, at quite a distance of each other;" i.e., in the region of the Virgo Cluster. However, these are not specified to any detail, and therefore cannot be identified.


  • More Deepsky Observing lists
  • History of the Discovery of the Deepsky Objects
  • Some other historical catalogs

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: September 12, 2006