An Imperfect Account of a Comet is an audiovisual installation  celebrating the celestial discoveries of the 18th century astronomer Caroline Herschel.

The work is presented as 560 photographic glass plates of stars that Herschel noticed were missing from the British Star Catalogue, and serves to bring these 'omitted’ stars to light, As such, they represent all the women whose groundbreaking knowledge and wisdom has been overlooked, undervalued, and ignored throughout history. 

During her lifetime, Herschel also discovered 8 comets and 14 nebulae, which are acknowledged in an accompanying sound composition, 8 Comets by Annie Needham and Phil Tomsett. This musical and spoken word piece is structured according to the precise charted orbits of the comets and is interspersed with words from Herschel’s private journals and observational writings. 

The 560 star plates have been exhibited across three venues: the Herschel museum in Bath where she lived and worked; St Laurence’s Church in Slough, where her brother William is buried, and where the siblings spent a large part of their lives; and the Royal Astronomical Society in London where her archive is held and where, at the age of 78, Caroline Herschel became the first woman to receive the RAS gold medal for her discoveries of the 8 comets, and for correcting John Flamsteed’s British Star Catalogue. 

The work will culminate in a live performance of 8 comets at St Mary’s church in Slough on the 28th and 29 October 2022, when all 560 star plates will be exhibited together for the first time. 

Caroline Herschel's archival documents courtesy of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Sound piece by Annie Needham & Phil Tomsett

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