DSO list from Burnham’s Celestial Handbook

Burnham’s Celestial Handbook is one of the most important works on the deep sky. Although there are more up-to-date and extensive deep-sky guidebooks, none match the wide ranging erudition and wonder that Robert Burnham brought to his monumental work. The Celestial Handbook covers every constellation and has extensive lists of objects that can be observed with amateur telescopes–about 7000 in total, including 1880 deep sky objects and 5120 double and variable stars.

Thanks to the kindness of two of my fellow participants on the Cloudy Nights forums, I have two versions of Burnham’s list of DSOs.

Version 1: Everything north of -30, in a scanned PDF

In the Preface to the list presented here, the compiler, Cory Martin, writes:

I have taken the trouble to compile, with the aid of Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, all NGC objects that are 13th magnitude or brighter and are north of declination -30 degrees….This should be a convenient “next step” after the Messier list. It is also ten times larger, listing 1166 objects.

This list was originally prepared by Cory Martin as a present for Ken Fiscus upon his completion of the Messier List in 1983. Cory now has a 17.5″ telescope and observatory in northeast Nebraska. Ken does astronomy outreach in south central Minnesota. The list is reproduced here with the kind permission of both Cory and Ken, and I thank them for their generosity in making it available.

I found out about the list through a conversation with Ken on the Cloudy Nights forum, and he sent me a hardcopy of the list, which I scanned to create this PDF. It’s not OCRed to be machine readable–if anyone would like to take that on, please let me know, but so far the tables have bedeviled all of the quick-and-dirty attempts.

Burnham DSOs north of -30 Martin 1983

Version 2: Everything, period, in an Excel file

This version was born out of the same discussion thread as the one above. After seeing my request for a sortable version of the Burnham DSO list, Paul Tartabini (CN username C Moon) extracted the entire list of DSOs–from all three volumes of Burnham’s Celestial Handbook–from the program SkyTools 3 and pasted them into an Excel spreadsheet. Because of file size restrictions on CN, Paul had to post the list as two separate files; all I’ve done in the version below is combine them into a single file. Some of them are missing magnitude data–a gap in the SkyTools files, not in Paul’s effort–but they should all be sortable by constellation, right ascension, and declination. So if you know how far south you can see from your location, you should be able to come up with an observing list that is customized for your latitude by sorting the whole list by declination and rejecting the objects south of your cutoff.

Paul was very modest about his contribution, writing:

I used SkyTools3 which had all the Burnham’s lists by constellation on their server. So someone else (not sure who) entered that data into SkyTools3 and made it available to ST3 customers. I simply filtered the data to only show DSOs and combined them by Volumes and then exported them to a spreadsheet. Really, it took me no more than an hour, and some of that was tracking down obvious errors.

My intent was to provide you with the list because it was fairly easy to do. I just don’t want to take credit for typing in all those objects when I really did not do that. All that said, the lists are Burnham’s, not SkyTools’ or anyone else’s for that matter.

That’s all understood, but still, I wouldn’t have the list if Paul hadn’t taken the time to make it available, and given me permission to post it here. So I stubbornly refuse to be swayed by his modesty and I give him a hearty thanks and two thumbs up. Paul observes from southeast Virginia with an eight-inch dob–may he enjoy clear dark skies and an unobstructed southern horizon!

Burnhams DSO list

Finally, because PDF is an even more universal and enduring standard than .xls, here’s the same list in PDF format. It should be possible to copy and paste it as tab-delimited data into the spreadsheet or database program of your choice, if the above Excel file doesn’t work.

Burnhams DSO list

Now, go have fun!


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  2. […] from his latitude (in southern Arizona) that are listed in Burnham’s Celestial Handbook (see this sidebar page for a similar list). Uncle Rod just finished the Herschel 2500–all of the deep sky objects […]

  3. […] read but not “done”. And lurking beyond everything else are the Herschel 2500 and the 7000 double stars, variable stars, and deep-sky objects from Burnham’s Celestial […]

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