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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A century's worth of sky

magellan cloud300.bmp
The Great Refractor, left, which captured the first
picture of a star in 1850, and an image of the
Large Magellanic Cloud taken in 1900.

More than half a million images constituting humanity’s only record of a century’s worth of sky exist on glass plates at the Harvard College Observatory, a story in today's New York Times notes.

alison doane100.bmp"Besides being 25 percent of the world’s total of astronomical photographic plates, this is the only collection that covers both hemispheres," Alison Doane (left) told the Times. She is curator of the glass database, which weighs 165 tons and contains more than a petabyte of data, the story says. There is no backup.

For the last few months, Doane and a few colleagues, along with volunteers from the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, have been setting the stage for a mammoth attempt to convert the entire collection into a searchable online atlas, the story says.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 10:55 AM
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