Keeler’s seminal paper on the spectroscopic observation of nebulae

Forums History Keeler’s seminal paper on the spectroscopic observation of nebulae

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #573800
    Paul Luckas

    I’ve recently stumbled upon the wonderful 1894 paper by non other than James Keeler entitled Spectroscopic Observations of Nebulae. Members who may have read The Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak, and are interested in spectroscopy, will find it particularly entertaining. This was an age where we had not yet unravelled the true size of the universe (the mystery of the ‘spiral nebulae’) let alone atomic theory. In his paper, Keeler details the observational techniques and results of his ground breaking efforts at Lick Observatory in a wonderfully engaging dialogue. The Summary of Results at the end of the paper is particularly fascinating in light of the times.

    A link can be found here:

    Keeler, J. E. (1894). Spectroscopic observations of nebulae made at Mount Hamilton, California with the thirty-six inch refractor of the Lick Observatory. Publications of Lick Observatory, 3, 161–231.

    Hugh Allen

    Thanks Paul, a fascinating link. I shall enjoy reading that 🙂



    Robin Leadbeater

    Fascinating. The description of the slanted lines in Jupiter’s spectrum due to rotation is familiar. It was one of the first things I looked at when I built my LHIRES III !

    Ken Harrison recently pointed me to an on line version of another interesting historic document

    “An Atlas of Representative Stellar Spectra 4870 to 3300”   William Huggins published 1899

    An interesting parallel to Richard Walkers publication 



    David Boyd


    Thanks for the reference to Huggins’ publication. His description of his equipment and his early visual spectroscopic observations is fascinating. His efforts to reliably calibrate his spectra are positively heroic. You get a real sense of his excitement in discovering the nature of the objects he was observing spectroscopically for the first time. He was one of the first to attempt to classify spectra in a systematic way. You can also sense his competitiveness in promoting his discoveries. It’s a great read.


Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.