Jump to content


Blinking Olde Images

  • Please log in to reply
8 replies to this topic

#1 jgraham


    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 13931
  • Joined: 02 Dec 2004
  • Loc: Miami Valley Astronomical Society

Posted 06 July 2013 - 05:00 PM

While searching the Web for old pictures of M27 I came across this gem; “Photographs Of Nebulae And Clusters, Made With The Crossley Reflector, Volume VIII” by James Edward Keeler, published in 1908. This may be found at…


This is a great source of pictures of deep sky objects that are over 100 years old (the pictures, not the deep sky objects). It is fascinating to copy pictures from this publication and paste them over modern pictures in Photoshop. I carefully rescale them to match the image scale and orientation of the two images and then blink them by clicking the layers on and off. You can easily spot stars with high proper motions and possible variables or asteroids. This is a great way to pass the time waiting for the weather to clear. :)

And yes, there are several stars near M27 that show high proper motion!


#2 Rick Woods

Rick Woods

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 14973
  • Joined: 27 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Inner Solar System

Posted 07 July 2013 - 01:05 AM


#3 GlennLeDrew


    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 11031
  • Joined: 17 Jun 2008
  • Loc: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:43 AM

That's an excellent idea, John! (But not at all surprising about high proper motion stars.) I would be careful about jumping the gun on potential variables, though. Ye Olde Plates are more than likely to be blue-sensitive, thus making the redder stars record as rather dim.

#4 jgraham


    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 13931
  • Joined: 02 Dec 2004
  • Loc: Miami Valley Astronomical Society

Posted 07 July 2013 - 10:55 AM

Heh, heh, that is why I said 'potential' variables. It is really neat to blink these images. You can easily pick out stars with high proper motions, some moving in the same direction at the same rate, most not. As far as variables, I noticed one star in particular that is easy to see in the 1899 plate, but absent from my image. The star's image is nice'n round so it is not likely to be an asteroid. My first stop will be the AAVSO web site to see what variables have already been cataloged in this field.

Neat stuff.

#5 CelestronDaddy


    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 897
  • Joined: 21 Aug 2009
  • Loc: Central Texas

Posted 07 July 2013 - 02:53 PM

Very interesting to look at.... thanks...

#6 swalker


    Imaging Editor - Sky & Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 1500
  • Joined: 22 Jan 2007
  • Loc: 42.9225°N, 71.2242°W

Posted 08 July 2013 - 01:09 PM

I do this all the time with POSS I survey images and the things I shoot these days. Many stars show proper motion in the intervening 60 years. Harvard is digitizing its vast collection of glass plates to push the coverage back about 100 years.

#7 amicus sidera

amicus sidera


  • *****
  • Posts: 4240
  • Joined: 14 Oct 2011
  • Loc: East of the Sun, West of the Moon...

Posted 08 July 2013 - 07:36 PM

It might add to the charm of blinking these images via computer if, every time images were compared, an sound file of an actual blink comparator... cha-chunk ...was synchronized to the action.

Certain sounds one never forgets.

Now, if only the wonderful scent of a library full of old plates could be captured and replayed...


#8 derangedhermit



  • -----
  • Posts: 1158
  • Joined: 07 Oct 2009
  • Loc: USA

Posted 10 July 2013 - 03:08 AM

The "I Killed Pluto" author describes writing some custom software to do initial screening for blink comparison of first plates that were made then scanned each night, then later straight digital images (they changed imagers over during the years he was doing the search). He had two people doing all the imaging, and his job was writing the filtering software and then blinking the remaining candidates on his computer screen.

I imagine there are many thousands of plates stashed around the world, some scanned, some not yet. It would be a good crowdsource / Zooniverse-type project if someone could set up a good sofware chain. Maybe the Tortilla plate solver or another automatic image alignment program first, and then automated marking of possible items of interest, then eyeballs.

Is there any blink software for amateur use?

#9 TomCorbett


    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 279
  • Joined: 08 Jul 2013

Posted 10 July 2013 - 11:48 AM

Thank you for posting this link to J. E. Keeler's photographs published in 1908. I find these photos particularly valuable for my current interest in 19th century observatories. Although these photos technically belong to the 20th century, they do show something of what the 19th century observers were able to see at their scopes--keeping in mind that photographs always capture more than the human eye at the scope.

Thank you again for sharing.

Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics