Previous abstract Next abstract

Session 35 - The Western Tradition (HAD).
Oral session, Monday, January 15
Salon del Rey Central, Hilton

[35.01] The Earliest Comet Photographs: Usherwood and Bond for Donati 1858

J. M. Pasachoff (Williams Col., Hopkins Obs.), R. J. M. Olson (Dept. of Art, Wheaton Col., Norton, MA)

The first known photographs of a comet were taken in 1858. The earliest astronomical telescopic photographs, daguerreotypes from 1850-51, had been made only when the violet focus of telescopes was found. Tracking remained a problem preventing astronomical objects from being photographed. When the Harvard refractor's tracking was improved in 1858, it was used by the Bonds and colleagues to photograph Comet Donati on a collodion plate. The plate remains in the archives of the Harvard College Observatory, though the image shows only very faintly and no tail can be seen. Bond was scooped the previous night by the commercial English photographer W. Usherwood, who used a portrait camera at a much lower focal ratio to capture the comet's tail. The plate was seen and evaluated by W.C. Bond. No further comet photography took place until 1881, when P.J.C. Janssen and J.W. Draper took the first generally recognized photographs of a comet, followed by D. Gill's photographs of the Great September comet of 1882.

This work was sponsored by two Senior Research Grants from the Getty Grant Program.

Program listing for Monday