[ 31 ]
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