Herschel constructed his first large telescope in 1774, after which he spent nine years carrying out sky surveys to investigate double stars. The resolving power of the Herschel telescopes revealed that the nebulae in the Messier catalogue were clusters of stars. Herschel published catalogues of nebulae in 1802 (2,500 objects) and in 1820 (5,000 objects). In the course of an observation on 13 March 1781, he realized that one celestial body he had observed was not a star, but a planet, Uranus. This was the first planet to be discovered since antiquity and Herschel became famous overnight. As a result of this discovery, George III appointed him Court Astronomer. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and grants were provided for the construction of new telescopes.
He was the first President of the Royal Astronomical Society when it was founded in 1820. He died in August 1822, and his work was continued by his only son, John Herschel.
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About the Author
He was the son of naturalist Robert Ball and Amelia Gresley Hellicar. He was born in Dublin.
Ball worked for Lord Rosse from 1865 to 1867. In 1867 he became Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Royal College of Science in Dublin. There he lectured on mechanics and published an elementary account of the science.
In 1874 Ball was appointed Royal Astronomer of Ireland and Andrews Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin at Dunsink Observatory.
In 1908 he published A Treatise on Spherical Astronomy, which is a textbook on astronomy starting from spherical trigonometry and the celestial sphere, considering atmospheric refraction and aberration of light, and introducing basic use of a generalised instrument.