Telescopes from the Ground Up

In 1850, working with photographer John A. Whipple, Bond did the same with the light of Alpha Lyrae, or Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyrae. It was the first photograph of a star. Starting in 1877, the telescope would be used almost entirely for photometry, a method of determining the brightness of stars.

Shooting stars

The benefits of photography to astronomy quickly became obvious. Observations could be recorded automatically and accurately, instead of being described and sketched. And astronomers found that objects too faint to be seen with the eye would nevertheless imprint themselves on photographic plates.

As photographic technology improved, and tracking technology enabled telescopes to focus on objects in the sky even as the Earth moved, pictures taken with telescopes would become the rule, not the exception, until the best telescopes would essentially become cameras, and eyepieces a thing of the past.

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Great Refractors


Portrait of Annie Jump Cannon.
Annie Jump Cannon
Annie Jump Cannon: Census taker of the stars
Read about her