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Stunning Early Photographs of the Stars and Telescope Construction

article-imageBuilding the turret for the Pretoria Observatory (all images courtesy Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums)

While people have been building telescopes for centuries, it’s only in the 19th century that the stars in their multitudes began to be captured in photographs. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (which also brought us the fantastic photographs of the blind experiencing Sunderland Museum through touch) recently uploaded some photographs to Flickr Commons of the building of telescopic instruments by Grubb Parsons Ltd., particularly related the the early photographs of the universe. 

From a close capture of the moon’s craggy surface to a distant impression of a nebula, the photographs created through large mirrors are just a fragment of the over 200 linear feet of archival material on Grubb Parsons Ltd. held by Tyne & Wear. However, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the past of early space photography, and the building of the monolithic astronomical devices necessary to view deep into the stars. 

Here are a few selections from the archive:

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The 60” mirror built for the telescope of William Parsons, Earl of Rosse. The telescope was said to be the largest of the 19th century. 

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Construction of the Stockholm 40” Reflector in the Stockholm Observatory in the early 1920s 

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Construction of the Toronto 74” reflector at the Toronto Observatory in 1935

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The construction of the Pretoria 74” Reflector for the Pretoria Observatory

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Helwan 74” Mirror made in 1948 

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The moon viewed on August 25, 1890

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Early 20th century photograph

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The ring crater Copernicus on the moon

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A spiral nebula

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The Andromeda Nebula

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The great globular cluster in the constellation Hercules

article-imageThe Whirlpool Nebula in the Hunting Hounds, or Canes Venatici constellations

Click here to view the whole set from the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.