How photography changed astronomy

From daguerreotype to CCD – how photography changed astronomy

Photography has revolutionized many aspects of science, not least astronomy. The ability to record views through a telescope or the lines in a spectrum with accuracy, rather than rely on drawings made by hand, was a tremendous advance. However, photography became important in astronomy much later than is often imagined because of its poor sensitivity. As the technology developed and the availability of photographic plates improved, rapid progress was made. Over the last 50 years the transition from photography to solid-state detectors has had an explosive effect on astronomy and has accelerated the development of solid-state sensors for many other applications as well. This talk will look at this progression and show how much we owe to the developers of astronomical imaging systems.


About Craig Mackay

Craig Mackay is Professor of Image Science at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge. For many years he has worked to develop the most sensitive detector systems for astronomy including avalanche photodiodes, CCDs and infrared arrays. He was a member of the Faint Object Camera team for the Hubble Space Telescope. He has also been involved in the transfer of imaging technologies from astronomy into other applications such as life sciences, medical screening and optical microscopy. In recent years he has developed the technique of Lucky Imaging that allows ground-based telescopes to exceed the angular resolution of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Craig Mackay’s home page