the Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia of Johannes Hevelius 1690 is one of the big four star atlases to come out of Europe’s Golden Age of celestial cartography, a period which spanned roughly 1600 to 1800 and which was driven by technological advances in astronomical observation and printing techniques. This group also includes the Uranometria of Johann Bayer 1603, the Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis 1729, and the Uranographia of Johann Elert Bode 1801.
Hevelius was perhaps the most active observational astronomer of the last half of the seventeenth century. His star atlas is notable for many reasons. It contains fifty-six large, exquisite, double-page engraved star maps. The star positions for the charts were derived from Hevelius’s own star catalogue, based on his own observations, which was first published along with the atlas. It is unique among the Grand Atlases in choosing to depict the constellations as they would appear on a globe, that is, from the outside looking in, rather than from a geocentric point of view, as his predecessor Johann Bayer and most others adopted. So Aquila and Antinous swoop down to the right, rather than to the left as in Bayer. A comparison of two details of Auriga from Hevelius and Bayer reveal the differences in orientation of the two atlases.
The Hevelius atlas also introduced eleven new constellations, including Scutum Sobiescanum, Canes Venatici, Leo minor, Lynx, Sextans, Lacerta the lizard, and the fox with the goose, Vulpecula cum Anser. Four of his innovations were eventually subsumed into other constellations, but the seven just mentioned are all still in use today. Cetus the Whale It is one of the largest constellations known in classical civilizations, the figure was the giant sea monster that almost ate Andromeda. King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia were forced leave their daughter chained to a cliff. When the monster came up to eat her, the hero Perseus defeated him and later married Andromeda. Because Cetus is so enormous, there are only a few months that the complete figure is visible. Look for Cetus from October through January. His head is a circle near the constellation Taurus. His long body stretches towards the southwest. The larger circle in the constellation is the tail, not the body
image: The Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia of Johannes Hevelius 1690