The Great Era of Discovery

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From 1870 or so, when the American astronomer S.W. Burnham first started in double-star astronomy, a golden period for discovery opened up and continued for about 80 years, first in the northern hemisphere and latterly in the south. The largest refractors in existence were used in systematic surveys of the BD star catalogues by R.G. Aitken and W.J. Hussey in California (they discovered 4700 pairs between them) and some years later by R.T.A. Innes, W.H. van den Bos and W.S. Finsen at the Republic Observatory, Johannesburg (5000 discoveries) and Rossiter and colleagues at the Lamont-Hussey Observatory at Bloemfontein (7650 discoveries) in South Africa. When the latter retired in 1952 it was not long before P. Couteau and P. Muller in France began to search for new pairs again, dividing up the northern heavens with Couteau tackling the zones from +17° to +52° and Muller surveyed the zones near the north pole. They were remarkably successful and Couteau's list now exceeds 2700 new pairs whilst Muller found more than 700. Additionally, W.D. Heintz has detected 900 new pairs, most of them in a zone close to the equator and in the southern hemisphere.

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