Jump to content


- - - - -

The Ages of Astrophotography 1839-2015

Discuss this article in our forums

The Ages of Astrophotography 1839-2015 Celebrating Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953)

Stefan Hughes - Januari 2016
Hardcover with 520 glossy pages


The Ages of Astrophotography is without doubt the most comprehensive historical book about  astrophotography. This beautifully illustrated book is divided into nine chapters.

Stone Circles to Space Telescopes (1) describes the origin of the astrophotography through the camera obscurae, Daguerreotype and collodion plates with the later development of dry photography.

Lunatics (2) gives an overview of the first attempts to photograph the Moon. Nineteenth-century photographs are compared with recordings of the same Lunar territories by contemporary astrophotographers like Thierry Legault.

Sun Seekers (3) describes the fascination of astronomers like Warren De La Rue and Bernard Lyot for our nearby star and the developing of the photo heliograph. Modern Solar photographer  Jean-Pierre Brahic shares his best solar photos.

Planets, Dwarfs and Vermin (4) is a chapter that focuses on astrophotography of objects in the Solar System. Going from the first attempts to photograph the gas giants, to detect comets and to photograph Near Earth Objects. Damien Peach and Christian Viladrich describe how their passion grew for planetary photography of the outer gas giants.

The Problem with Nebulae (5) provides an overview of Deep Sky objects such as star clusters, nebulae in the Milky Way, gas clouds and extragalactic nebulae. Again, old recordings are showcased against modern color shots by astrophotographers such as Robert Gendler and Volker Wendel.

Rainbows of Heaven (6) describes the development of spectroscopy and groundbreaking scientific findings such as the classification of stars. Auroras and nebulae are also covered.

Surveyors of the Sky (7) focuses on photometry and astrometry, the Carte du Ciel project and the current sky surveys in both hemispheres.

Coming of the Astro Graph (8) provides a comprehensive overview of the development of telescopes designed for astrophotography. From the first apochromic refractors, the Coudé refractor, the use of silver coatings on large mirror telescopes such as the 91 cm reflector Crossely and reflectors on Mount Wilson observatory which enabled Edwin Hubble to make his historical discoveries. Opticians like George Ritchey, Henri Chrétien, Bernhard Schmidt and Tom Johnson are extensively discussed. The author gives a brief overview of contemporary telescopes used by amateur astronomers.

Plates, Films & Chips (9) describes the history of various media such as photography in the panchromatic plates, Kodak film to modern photon-sensitive CCDs.
The book concludes with an alphabetical list of astronomers, an appendix and an extensive bibliography.

The author, Stefan Hughes,  is a historian/ astronomer with a passion for astrophotography and genealogy (family tree research). His interest for ancestral research and the lineage of families gave rise to his first book "Catchers of the Light - The Forgotten Lives of the Men and Women who First Photographed the Heavens" in which he focuses on the background of the first astro photographers and astronomers 19th and 20th centuries. The second book, "The Ages of Astrophotography" is a must-read sequel which fits well on every astronomer's book shelf!

More info:


  • DHEB, Randolph Jay and DennisM like this


Jun 11 2017 12:04 PM

This looks like a great and informative work on the subject, don't recall seeing it treated in the way and should be enjoyable.  I am curious what are your thoughts after reading it?  what sort of narrative does the author use?  I have not read the book mentioned at the bottom of the announcement, title seems very close to Jerry Lodriguss site name?!  What audience is it intended for? by that I mean is it non math and more for 'layperson', or does it go into details?


Thank you.

Is this book available in print?  I only see electronic versions.

WHY did they watermark the .pdf "free" edition?  It's distracting.  Is there some arrangement where you pay something and the watermarks disappear?  
Also, the writing in the book is "stilted."  It needs serious editing.  Example:

"However the Kenwood Spectroheliograph was superfluous to requirements.  The Brashear refractor was required for other work, nor was it suitable for use with the Observatory's new 40-inch Refractor."

Also, why no cut-way of a spectroheliograph?  It's basically a picture-book with lines like, "he did this, he did that."  Very little about the technology.

    • AstroBobo likes this

Seeing the cover and the website, looks like it's really poorly designed.

Sep 06 2017 01:59 AM

Seeing the cover and the website, looks like it's really poorly designed.


Don't judge a book by its cover ;)

Having glanced through the free edition, which is only 142 pages in total compared to well over 500 in the full edition, I think the few criticisms above are warranted but in no way reduce the importance of the work. There are a number of typos in the book (e.g., Comet "Homes" on the third page of the free edition pdf) and the language is sometimes awkward. In terms of clarity of writing, Mr Hughes is no Isaac Asimov. On top of that the page formatting could be better. This book looks very much like a self-published and self-edited work. (I note that its predecessor "Catchers of the Light" evidently had a very small print run at a very high price, both signs of self-publishing. The identified publisher, ArtDeCiel Publishing, is the author's own creation.)


What cannot be faulted is the sheer amount of research that was evidently done. Still, I wouldn't consider the book an "essential addition to every astronomy library" as one reviewer of the book's predecessor "Catchers of the Light" stated. It depends on how interested you are about history and specifically the history of astrophotography. I'll bet some people would rather watch paint dry than attempt to read this book.


As to why the free edition has a prominent watermark (and is missing most of the content of the full edition), the reason should be obvious. No one would pay for the full edition otherwise. If the watermark is annoying it has served its purpose. 


What is not clear to me is how "The Ages of Astrophotography" differs from "Catchers of the Light." Is it just an expansion of that earlier book or a true "sequel?" How much overlap is there between them?

I would likely buy this book if it were published professionally.  The cover design, the typos, the lack of info on where to purchase a printed copy...  Those things don't inspire confidence.

The author should talk to Willman-Bell about publishing a professionally done print version of this text!!!

ok... went to the website to buy the printed book but couldn't find anywhere to buy!?!

i want buy one

There is no printed version of the book. The author has elected not to do a print run like he did for the earlier book. ebook (PDF or iBook) only.

Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics