Friday, July 16, 2010

Astrophoto Friday: Bonus Palomar in Science Fiction Edition!

Here are a couple of classic Palomar images from the early days of color astrophotography.

The Andromeda Galaxy (aka M31) as photographed with the 48-inch Schmidt telescope (now called the Samuel Oschin Telescope).

The Ring Nebula (aka M57), a planetary nebula in the constellation of Lyra as photographed by the 200-inch Hale Telescope.

Both of these images were part of a 1959 article in LIFE magazine, The Hues of Heaven, that showed off the first ever color astrophotos. These and other images from Palomar, were inspirational to people like me. They also worked their way into popular culture. My favorite example is that they were used as set dressing for the bridge of the Starship Enterprise in the first season of the original series of Star Trek. The shot below shows M31, M57, Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock from the episode, The Naked Time (By the way, it is a pretty good episode and you can watch it here.).

In their day these photos were revolutionary and looked futuristic enough to have them displayed on the bridge of the Enterprise. Times have changed. We have moved on to doing things like imaging exoplanets. The big, familiar objects like the ones shown above can now be easily by amateur astronomers with off of the shelf equipment.

In another 44 years what kinds of images will professional and amateur astronomers be able to take?

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