Title page of C. E. Barns's 1001 Celestial Wonders, 1931 edition.
Title page of C. E. Barns's 1001 Celestial Wonders, 1931 edition.

In the July 2016 issue of Sky & Telescope, Jim Mullaney presents "A Forgotten Observing Classic": the story of Charles Edward Barns and his delightful 1927 amateur-astronomy guide 1001 Celestial Wonders as Observed with Home-Built Instruments.

Today Barns's reputation, to the extent that the amateur community knows of him at all, stems from his colorful and evocative descriptions of the 1,001 telescopic sights in his book. We didn't have room for very many excerpts of these in the magazine. So here is Jim Mullaney's much longer sample of them, in order of right ascension, followed by more illustrations of the book. Enjoy.


Chi CAS: “Cluster. Set in gorgeous framing of varied forms.”
M31 (Andromeda Galaxy): “Fairly defined naked-eye spectacle; but in a telescope of low power and wide range, an object of increasing interest and wonder.”
35–41 PSC: “A region of splendors!”
Chi 1-2-3-4 PSC: “Royal procession of stellar nobles.”
Beta CET: “Vibrating, colorful star.”
M103 CAS: “Vivid cluster, in grand setting.”
H 42 [VII-42] CAS [NGC 457]: “Massed jewels!”
Chi AND: “Two blazing suns!”
Gamma AND: “Gorgeous colorings—burnished gold and cerulean blue.”
M 33 TRI: “Over ½ degree in extent, with crosses, rifts and nebulous condensations in a sea of glory!”
Alpha PSC: “Weird coloring.”
h 227 PER: [NGC 957] “Field shot with diamond-dust!”
M34 PER: “A celestial aegis hung aloft in splendor!”
Struve 385 CAM: “A real gem-field!”
ERIDANUS: The south-flowing constellation of the classic River Po. . . beaconed by the flashing super-sun, Achernar.”
Beta CAM: “A monarch in lone splendor.”
H 21 [VII-21] TAU [NGC 1758]: “Nebulous cluster. Entire zone appears enveloped in lambent clouds of cosmic dust.”
ORION: “West boundary of the imperial constellation of the firmament!”
M 37 AUR: “A diamond starburst!”
Beta TAU: “A super-giant in kingly isolation.”
M 1 TAU: “Famous ‘Crab Nebula’ of Lord Rosse (the analogy presupposed a strong Irish imagination)”
M 78 ORI: “Weird gaseous nebula. . . Interesting!”
Sigma ORI: “Thrilling nebulous region!”
Eta ORI: “Helium stars involved in calcium clouds.”
M 42 (Orion Nebula) ORI: “Great Nebula! Enough matter to form a star cluster!”
5 LYN: “A pendant ruby!”
M 35 GEM: “Strikingly beautiful!”
Gamma GEM: “Framed in jewels.”
MONOCEROS: “Even random sweeping charms.”
H VII 2 MON [NGC 2244]: “Pearl cluster. . . Mag-6 star almost involved in naked-eye sunburst.”
11 (Beta) MON [famous triple star]: “Herschel’s Wonder!”
GEMINI: “. . . a dazzling exploration field for the gem-hunter.”
H IV 45 GEM [NGC 2392; Clown Face Nebula]: “Very remarkable phenomenon, worth many returns.”
Beta CMA: “Prince of a resplendent court of suns of high and low degree, finely placed for leisurely study.”
Eta CMI: “Ghostly nebulous!”
Alpha (Procyon) CMI: “Pale topaz.”
H VI-37 PUP [NGC 2506]: “Colossal silvery star-cloud.”
H VIII-38 PUP [NGC 2422 = M47]: “Broad integration of mag. 5–9 suns. Colorful units abound. A majestic zone throughout.”
H IV-64 PUP [NGC 2440]: “Curious bright opal.”
Sigma-2 CNC: “Like one elliptical star.”
Iota CNC: “Crocus and violet.”
M 67 CNC: “Vivid, rich type of its exalted class.”
M81, M82 UMA: “Two nebulae. Argent, 30’ apart. Unlike in size, structure and glow.”
H I-205 UMA [NGC 2841]: “Oval, lambent, with clear nucleus.”
38 LYN: “Vivid stellar horseshoe.”
Epsilon LEO: “Alluring adventure field.”
R LEO: “A fiery, pulsating beacon!”
H I-17-18 LEO [NGC 3379 = M105]: “A nest of Nebulae! Worth many adventures.”
Alpha (Regulus) LEO: “A noble sun.”
H IV-27 HYA [NGC 3242]: “One of the most amazing of the planetary class-elliptical, pale steely blue, 45″ in diameter, with Wolf-Rayet star nucleus framed in double rings.”
Iota LEO: “Amber-turquoise.”
H V-24 COM [NGC 4565]: “Seen edgewise, with bulbous center and long 20′ bifurcated luminous body. Unique!”
M 64 COM: “One of the grandest in the heavens — like a colossal pendant abalone pearl in rayless void.”
M 88 VIR: “Foreshortened. Region a vast Sargosso Sea of star-illumined cosmic matter”
Gamma VIR: “One of the finest pairs visible!”
Otto Struve Struve 123 UMA: “Commanding!”
Zeta/80 (Mizar & Alcor) UMA: “The pair, so happily placed in the crook of the Big Dipper’s handle, never fail to inspire awe, however frequently observed.”
M 51 CVN: “Transcendent ‘Whirlpool Nebula’ of Lord Rosse, resembling more an eternal question-mark—a supernal celestial enigma which in very truth it is.”
M3 CVN: “Pre-eminent in its class. . .”
Epsilon BOO: “Gold and blue test-star.”
H I-70 VIR [NGC 5634]: “Beautiful lacery of nebulous stars.”
Struve 1950 BOO: “Gold-turquoise.”
Iota SER: “A stellar Golconda south.”
Struve 1962 LIB: “Commanding!”
Beta LIB: “Pale emerald unit resembling Uranus.”
H VI-19 LIB [NGC 5897]: “A universe of remote suns.”
2 SCO: “Enchanting environs.”
M 19 OPH: “A bewilderment of loose clusters, accentuated by encompassing black rayless space-deeps.”
H IV-37 DRA [NGC 6543, Cat’s Eye Nebula]: “Luminous blue.”
Gamma DRA: “A gem!”
Delta HER: “A study in color.”
95 HER: “Beryl-sardonyx.” [The famed “apple-green and cherry-red” double!]
M 14 OPH: “Extended—like blown star-dust.”
M 23 OPH: “Blazing wilderness of starry jewels!”
M 20 SGR: “Famous Trifid. A dark-night revelation. . .”
M 8 (Lagoon Nebula) SGR: “A naked-eye wonder.”
Alpha (Vega) LYR: “Resembles an old-mine Brazilian brilliant of purest water intensified to infinity!”
M 57 LYR: “Famous ‘Ring.’ Finest of the annular type. A cardinal unit.”
6 [actually Struve 6N] OPH: “A curious, bright, gaseous unit. . . Bluish.”
H VIII-72 SER [NGC 6633]: “Superlative! Grand star-clouds following.”
Theta SER: “Imperial pair in regal setting!”
M 17 [Horseshoe/Omega/Swan Nebula] SGR: “Curiously arched….Interesting with low power, but with increased magnification an exquisite object.”
M 22 SGR: “Another Colossus.”
CYGNUS: “The graceful star-imagery of the Swan, with its six high-magnitude brilliants slanting a cross athwart the northern heavens is the very ganglion of the Galaxy.”
Beta (Albireo) CYG: “Thrilling pair!”
M 27 VUL: “Faint nucleus, many stars enmeshed like pearls caught in swirls of lace.”
M 71 SAG [SGE]: “Dazzling sweep of star-clouds!”
15 AQL: “Gems in a royal crown.”
57 AQL: “A color variant.”
H IV-51 SGR [NGC 6818]: “Like a monster fish-eye.”
Alpha (Deneb) CYG: “A super sun!”
H VIII-56 CYG [NGC 2910]: “A pageant of splendors!”
48 CYG: “Regal domain!”
Gamma DEL: “Rich duo, gold – green.”
Alpha CAP: “Magnificent!”
Rho CAP: “Primrose – plum.”
Mu CEP: “Herschel’s curious ‘garnet sidus’.”
M 39 CYG: “Grand open type.”
Mu CYG: “Red-gold – purple.”
M 2 AQR: “Thousands of suns compressed into a glowing opalescent mass.”
H VIII-75 LAC [NGC 7243]: “Massed star-jewels.”
8 LAC: “Double-Double. Superb!”
Omicron CEP: “…primrose and lilac tints…”
CASSIOPEIA: “One of the richest constellations. . . extending majestically toward the northeast, comprising some of the noblest objects to lure the explorer.”
6 CAS: “Orange – gold.”
Otto Struve 496 CAS: “Neighborhood truly dazzling.”
H 30 [VI-30] CAS [NGC 7789]: “Radiant. Pronounced Most superb’.”
Sigma CAS: “Teeming with jewels.”
H IV-18 AND [NGC 7662]: “Bright, bluish green, elliptical. . . Variable nucleus and two oval rings.”

Title page and frontispiece.
C. E. Barns at his workbench. Few photos of him seem to exist.
Barns's enthusiasm for telescope making inspired many readers in the 1930s, although history today mostly remembers Scientific American's encyclopedic "Amateur Telescope Making" series of columns instead.
Barns's chart of Orion and surroundings. The finely scaled coordinate grid, for plotting objects accurately, was printed in red so that it would disappear outdoors under a red flashlight -- apparently an astronomy-book first.


Image of Bob


July 13, 2018 at 10:41 am


Thank you for this review of an amateur astronomy classic.

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