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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:35 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 10:34 pm
Posts: 373
Location: Surrey
Before the arrival of the digital age access to astronomical data and images was very limited. If you wanted to examine a photographic image of the night sky you would have to travel to the observatory that took the image and carefully look through the glass plates in the observatory archive. If you were lucky your local observatory might have prints of sky survey plates you could view and get (photographically) copied if required. Access to catalogues of objects were slightly better, if they had been printed your observatory / university library or a national library such as the Library of The Royal Astronomical Society. If the catalogue had not been printed you had to travel to the observatory that held the original.

Having got the image and the data you would then have to plot it manually point by point on your image.

With the arrival of the digital age the images were now in digital form having been taken by CCD cameras and in some cases the catalogue data was slowly made available in digital formats. The images and catalogues were still stored in observatory archives in different formats so accessing them and combining the data was still a challenge.

This problem was recognised by professional astronomers a decade or more ago. To make the data available to all astronomers they have spent the last decade creating the 'Virtual Observatory' that allows seamless access to images, catalogues, spectra and data from across the whole world. Access is provided by a number of tools and services such as Aladin, Vizier and Skyview. In addition there are tools that allow the position and 'plate scale' of your own images to be determined such as An internet search will tell you more about these.

My question is how much do you as amateur astronomers know about these tools and what use do you make of them ?

Some more information on The Virtual Observatory can be found on my website at if you wish to find out more or learn the basics of using the Virtual Observatory

John Murrell

Engineer @ Work - Astronomer @ Play

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