Sydney Observatory Star Camera Moon and Jupiter Photographs 1891
Sometime around July 1891 Sydney Observatory received a new enlarging lens for the star camera. This attachment, when combined with the Grubb lens which had arrived in September the previous year, enabled the observatory to take highly magnified images of double stars, the moon and other objects.
Once fixed to the telescope the camera was able to produce glass plates 6 ½ x 6 ½ inches (16.5 x 16.5 cm) square, which was the size stipulated for the Mapping the Stars project. This gave the instrument a magnifying power of the telescope equal to 179 feet (5455.9 cm). The Dallmeyer lens previously used had produced a result which was the equivalent of taking a direct photograph in a telescope 47 feet (1432.6cm) long.
In 1890 H. C. Russell, the Government Astronomer, had made experiments using a Dallmeyer portrait lens and while proud of these photographs Russell felt the new lens combination enabled far more detail to be captured. After a series of trials between April and July 1891 Russell told the New South Wales Royal Society that, I have succeeded in getting several fine photographs of this object [Eta Argus] with the Star Camera, which make it eighteen times larger than the one I used last year.
Throughout the rest of 1891 Russell and Short continued to experiment with the camera, taking photographs of the moon as well as the stars. In September he told the New South Wales Royal Society, that with this combination of photographic equipment, he able to photograph portions of the moon up to 20 inches (50.8cm) in diameter.
Russell described these photographs as being, '? finer than anything which has been done, or at least published before. One of these was framed and mounted on the wall in the Government Astronomer's office, where it remained for many years.
It is important to note that most of these photographs produced using the Sydney 'Star Camera' were taken by James Walter Short. Short who was appointed in July 1890 retired in 1930 after spending much of the intervening forty years making glass plate negatives of stars for the 'Mapping the Stars' project.
These photographic plates are of significance as they illustrate the important role the Sydney Astrograph played in the development of astronomy in Australia. They are also significant for to their relationship to Australia's early scientists and the history of science in Australia.
Geoff Barker, Assistant Curator, December, 2008
Department of Public Instruction, letter, Stare Records of New South Wales, Sydney Observatory Collection, Box 61, 53840, BN911
Harley Wood, Astrographic Catalogue 1900.0, Sydney Section -52° to -64°, from Photographs Taken at the Sydney Observatory, New South Wales Australia, volume LIII, V.C.N. Blight, Government Printer, 1971
Russell, H.C., 'Preparations Now Being Made in Sydney Observatory for the Photographic Chart of the Heavens', in Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales for 1891, Kegan Paul, Tench, Turner & Co., Limited, London, 1892
Russell, H.C., 'Notes on Some Celestial Photographs recently taken at the Sydney Observatory', in Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales for 1891, Kegan Paul, Tench, Turner & Co., Limited, London, 1892
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