Page:The Pathfinder of the Seas.djvu/79

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49
HIS ASTRONOMICAL WORK

It was concluded, therefore, that Lalande had observed and recorded Neptune as a fixed star on the nights of May 8 and 10, 1795. This discovery enabled astronomers to compute the new planet's orbit from observations extending over a period of fifty years.

The work on this catalogue was carried forward industriously for several years, but the results were not ready to be published in the volume of observations for the year 1846 because of the continual drafts on the personnel of the Observatory for sea duty, which made it impossible for the computers to keep pace with the observers. Eventually, Maury was compelled to abandon the hope of ever finishing a complete catalogue of the stars, as at first planned. The observations continued to be made, however, and by January of 1855 the number of stars which had been so observed reached the grand total of 100,000; but these results were not published until 1873, long after Maury's superintendency had come to a close. Maury would never have undertaken such an ambitious work, if he had realized the Herculean labor involved in the cataloguing of all the stars down to the 10th magnitude in all the heavens from 45° south to the North Pole, a colossal undertaking that was entirely beyond the capacity of any one observatory to accomplish in a generation.

The appearance of the second volume of astronomical observations was delayed because of the inroads made on Maury's staff by the demands of the Mexican War. Then when the work was on the point of being published it was destroyed by a fire which burned the printing office. So the volume did not appear until the year 1851; and as the years went by publications fell further and further behind the observations. There is no