Page:Philosophical Transactions - Volume 095.djvu/43

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II. Experiments for ascertaining how far Telescopes will enable us to determine very small Angles, and to distinguish the real from the spurious Diameters of celestial and terrestrial Objects: with an Application of the Result of these Experiments to a Series of Observations on the Nature and Magnitude of Mr. Harding's lately discovered Star. By William Herschel, LL.D. F.R.S.
 

Read December 6, 1804.

 

The discovery of Mr. Harding having added a moving celestial body to the list of those that were known before, I was desirous of ascertaining its magnitude; and as in the observations which it was necessary to make I intended chiefly to use a ten-feet reflector, it appeared to me a desideratum highly worthy of investigation to determine how small a diameter of an object might be seen by this instrument. We know that a very thin line may be perceived, and that objects may be seen when they subtend a very small angle; but the case I wanted to determine relates to a visible disk, a round, well defined appearance, which we may without hesitation affirm to be circular, if not spherical.

In April of the year 1774, I determined a similar question relating to the natural eye: and found that a square area could not be distinguished from an equal circular one till the diameter of the latter came to subtend an angle of 2' 17". I did not think it right to apply the same conclusions to a telescopic view