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View from a Scope | July 25, 2021

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Advances in Astrophotography – Early Images of Planets

Advances in Astrophotography – Early Images of Planets

After Daguerre success photographing the Moon, it became clear that photography will have a great impact on astronomy.

However it was not until 1858 that the first success came in photographing a body contained within our Solar System and even then it was not a planet, but ironically a much more difficult target – a Comet. On the 27th of September 1858, William Usherwood (1821-1915), a ‘wedding and baby’ photographer from Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey, England imaged Donati’s Comet – head, tail and all using his jobbing portrait camera. This was a day before a failed attempt was made by George Phillips Bond, using the ‘Great Refractor’ at the Harvard College Observatory.


Photography and astronomy joined forces on a large scale in 1874 when stargazer were sent around the world to photograph the transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun.


Only in 1885-1886 did astronomers succeed in obtaining a large scale image of a planet. This was achieved by the two brothers Pierre Paul Henry (1848-1905) and Mathieu Prosper Henry (1849-1904) when they used a 33 cm (13 inch) photographic refractor at the Paris Observatory to image both Jupiter and Saturn. Their success was due to the use of a refractor of large focal ratio f10.4 and an enlarging lens of magnification x11.


Information and image courtesy of The Catchers of Light website.


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