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Unlocking 120 Years of Images of the Night Sky

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the star-gazing dept.

Space 29

First time accepted submitter MCastelaz writes "Researchers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit foundation located at a former NASA Tracking Station, are preparing to unlock 120 years of images of the night sky. The images are embedded on more than 220,000 astronomical photographic plates and films dating back to 1898 collected from over 40 institutions and observatories in the United States. These plates and films are housed in the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive at PARI. The researchers plan to begin digitizing these collections this year, bringing these fantastic observational works by generations of astronomers who spent more than a million hours at telescopes to the general public and scientists worldwide. The PARI researchers are calling this the Astronomy Legacy Project. The researchers will use an extremely high precision, fast, scanning machine to do the work. To get the project off the ground, they are beginning with a crowdfunding campaign and the funds from that campaign will be used to buy the digitizing machine."

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Pisgah? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 8 months ago | (#46234415)

Pisgah? Pshaw!

Re:Pisgah? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235395)

The Institute is located in the Pisgah National Forest in the mountains in western North Carolina. It was the first of several dozen NASA tracking stations around the world for the Gemini and Apollo programs, served as the primary station for Apollo-Soyuz, and the first GPS tests were done there in the 1970's. It is now a prime Science, technology, Engineering, and Mat education center and radio and optical observatory.

120 years of images? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234423)

... You can keep the old, most likely grainy and low res ones, I will only take the recent HD+ ones, thanks.

Re:120 years of images? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234465)

... You can keep the old, most likely grainy and low res ones, I will only take the recent HD+ ones, thanks.

You mean, your prefer Beta? Yeah, it's shiny and new; but does it contain information on the brightness of some variable star of interest? Obviously not. Epic fail. Just like Beta.

Re:120 years of images? (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46235029)

Any given film is not always that important. Its the difference between films over time.
Besides, film tech was pretty awesome quite a while ago.

I wish they accepted PayPal. Sent them some shekels anyway. Long way to go to get that 60,000 scanner.

Re:120 years of images? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235085)

It's a ruse to placate the scientifically-interested common men of the US, giving them their "transparency" so they can say, "See? We're not so closed off, you know, about the NSA giving unredacted wholesale data to Israel...we did, after all, just declassify 100 years of meaningless shit to you! See? We threw you a bone."

It's the "open government" you voted for under Bush, or was it Clinton? And later Bush, and then Clinton? after that 15 years, Bush, and then Clinton? Man, I wish I had some Shekels. If I were a Rich Man, I'd be Gold-Silver-Steinen-Eisner-Burg!

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:120 years of images? (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46235159)

How the fuck did you manage to spin this as a political issue?

You seem to have plenty of money for cocaine. Maybe want to dial that down a bit.

I love beta (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234429)

Beta is here to stay!

Re:I love beta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234441)

Beta believe it

Re:I love beta (3, Funny)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#46235235)

Beta is here to stay!

It lost out to VHS years ago. Are you some kind of diehard Sony fanboy or something?

In Harper's Canada (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234483)

...this wouldn't have been possible, as all the photographic plates would be in the bottom of a landfill by now.

Nothing to do with Pisgah Crater in California.... (1)

macraig (621737) | about 8 months ago | (#46234499)

I assumed it might, but these folks are in North Carolina. I guess Pisgah is a more common surname than I guessed?

Re:Nothing to do with Pisgah Crater in California. (4, Informative)

lowen (10529) | about 8 months ago | (#46234771)

Hebrew for 'Mountain.'

Re:Nothing to do with Pisgah Crater in California. (1)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | about 8 months ago | (#46235677)

Probably refers to Pisgah National Forest [wikipedia.org] .

No info on the camera! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234693)

$60K for an X/Y table?

Re:No info on the camera! (4, Informative)

lowen (10529) | about 8 months ago | (#46234751)

Yes. Required for the stability to scan with the precision and accuracy needed for both astrometry and spectroscopy. You need zero backlash positioners and a rock-solid (pun intended) surface.

Less expensive than the alternatives, such as refitting a PDS 2020G such as was used to generate Space Telescope Science Institute's digitized sky survey ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:No info on the camera! (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | about 8 months ago | (#46234833)

A good image merging algorithm could also do the trick, though these normally go wrong sometimes. Maybe not an alternative with this large amount of images.

Re:No info on the camera! (4, Funny)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46235043)

Dono If I want to be told about a death star heading to earth only to be told weeks later it was a stitching artifact.

Re:No info on the camera! (1)

lowen (10529) | about 8 months ago | (#46235053)

The difficulty with merging images could be the sparse nature of the data on the plate. In doing something like the visual6502.org dieshots there's plenty of data with which to do tiling; astronomical imagery is pretty sparse. So, while tiling will likely have to be done, the basic accuracy and precision of the platform (including the flatness and purity of the camera optics) is very important, and quite expensive.

Usenet is the new Slashdot, see you in comp.misc! (-1, Flamebait)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about 8 months ago | (#46234817)

Usenet is the new Slashdot, see you in comp.misc! If you're tired of the ad-driven, monetized internet, please come join us on Usenet, at comp.misc - get your free Usenet account at Eternal September. Why boycott for a week, or keep dribbling content into a site run by people who don't value you, when you can join the original, free, uncensored, non-commercial, distributed forum!

See you all there!

Oooh the discoveries (4, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 8 months ago | (#46234895)

I can't imagine the discoveries, but I can imagine who is going to make them. It will be some person in a complete backwater who uses something really cool in an innovative way to make a slew of discoveries.

how to find plates from a specific date? (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | about 8 months ago | (#46234945)

I would like to find plates from a specific date in 1970 and another date in 1980. I've been clicking around the collections and can't really make heads or tails of the archive. Can anyone suggest how to find a plate for a specific date?

Re:how to find plates from a specific date? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235365)

You and your wife's birthdays?

DASCH is doing this too (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235119)

Search for your favorite star here:

http://dasch.rc.fas.harvard.ed... [harvard.edu]

Re:DASCH is doing this too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235375)

The Harvard team is doing a great job digitizing their plate collection! They lead by example. The Astronomy Legacy project is meant to follow in their footsteps by digitizing a wide variety of different types of plates form many different observatories. These include spectra, astrometric, and direct imaging plates.

120 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46236105)

"120 years of images of the night sky." "dating back to 1898"
1898+120=2018
It's 2018? Does anyone know who won the 2016 (U.S.) presidential election?

I can't wait for the new astrological discoveries (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 8 months ago | (#46237839)

that will be possible as with the release of all this data!

Re:I can't wait for the new astrological discoveri (1)

lowen (10529) | about 8 months ago | (#46239429)

Don't know how many astrological discoveries there may be, since astrology looks into the future and this is looking into the past. But I do get the reference......

Yerkes study (1)

mcswell (1102107) | about 8 months ago | (#46241385)

There's a study of the motion of stars in globular clusters being done at Yerkes Observatory: http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerk... [uchicago.edu] . They have an ancient refractor with a 40 inch lens. Now refractors have long since been replaced by reflectors in serious astronomy. But they were using this telescope because it allowed precise comparisons between pictures taken now and archival plates from a century ago, necessary to determine the slight apparent displacement of those stars.
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