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Old Black and White Photographs of Distant Stars

The Whirlpool nebula (galaxy) as seen from Yerkes Observatory.

The Whirlpool nebula (galaxy) as seen from Yerkes Observatory.

Everyone who has ever been interested in space documentaries will remember Carl Sagan. It was he who put such an interesting spin on the study of the Cosmos through his contagious enthusiasm for the subject. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a 2014 follow-up to that original 1980 television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which was hosted by Sagan, still thought to be groundbreaking for scientific documentaries. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey simultaneously premiered on March 9 this year across the US on 21st Century Fox networks.

A photograph from Yerkes Observatory depicts nebulae in the Pleiades.

A photograph from Yerkes Observatory depicts nebulae in the Pleiades.

The rest of the series will be telecast on Fox, while the National Geographic Channel will re-air the episodes the next night, adding extra content. The series has also been rebroadcast in several other countries by local National Geographic as well as Fox stations.

distant stars and galaxies

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey was conceived to revive interest in science on network television at a time when we are seeing a spike of other scientific-themed television productions. The show is hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a Sagan fan who as a young college student was inspired by him. Seth MacFarlane is among the executive producers, whose influence and financial participation was crucial in realizing the show to air on television.  Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow as well as a co-creator of the original series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was also instrumental in the creation of the 2014 follow-up.

Albert Einstein and the staff of Yerkes Observatory.

Albert Einstein and the staff of Yerkes Observatory.

The new series format is patterned after the thirteen-episode and intimate, storytelling approach used in the original series from 1980. It contains elements like the “Ship of the Imagination”. Updated data is also showcased in the new series in addition to astounding computer-generated graphics and animation footage that breathes life into the narration.

The forty-inch telescope at the Yerkes Observatory.

The forty-inch telescope at the Yerkes Observatory.

Fascination with space has been a longtime obsession of man, as evidenced by this 1919 image taken at the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Yerkes has the biggest refracting glass lens in the world with no mirrors. It has also been the hub for many astronomical discoveries and a place of study for celebrated scientists such as Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan himself.

Yerkes observatory observes a distant comet.

Yerkes observatory observes a distant comet.

Yerkes was established in 1897 and the main telescope is still being used. It has created more than 150,000 photographic plates, many of which are in the August 1919 National Geographic magazine story, “Exploring the Glories of the Firmament” by William Joseph.

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Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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