Cartes Photographiques du Ciel received by the Harvard College Observatory
In 1887, the first International Astrophotographic Congress launched the Carte du Ciel, an international astronomical project to photograph every star in the sky, and compile a catalog, known as the Astrographic Catalogue, listing the positions of stars from the fourteenth magnitude down to the eleventh magnitude, from this photographic atlas. The Cartes Photographiques du Ciel received by the Harvard College Observatory as part of the Carte du Ciel documents portions of the star mapping project at observatories in Belgium, France, and Spain from 1916 to 1929.
- 1916 - 1929
- Harvard College Observatory (Organization)
Open for research.
Extent1.25 cubic feet (6 flat boxes)
The Cartes Photographiques du Ciel received by the Harvard College Observatory from 1916 to 1929 documents portions of the international astronomical project, Cartes du Ciel (Maps of the Sky), which was initiated in the late nineteenth century to catalog and map the positions of millions of stars as faint as the fourteenth magnitude. The maps of the stars show the exact positions and brightness of individual points of light. The maps are divided into columns (x and y) giving the star's location, counting by the reseau (grid) squares and fractions of them; x from left to right, and y from bottom to top. There are 26 such squares each way, and each of them corresponds to 5' on the sky so that the whole width or height is 2°10'. Information shared by most of the maps includes star declination, chart number, the observatory which issued the map, the date when the photographic plate was taken, the name of the observer who exposed the plate, and the name of the map printer. The maps are in French and Spanish.
Historical note on the Harvard College Observatory
The Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (founded in 1890) were merged in 1973 to form The Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The Center is a research institute that carries on studies in astronomy, astrophysics, earth and space sciences, and science education.
Historical note on the Carte du Ciel and Astrographic Catalogue
In 1887, Scottish astronomer David Gill and Ernes Mouchez, director of the Paris Observatory, at the first International Astrophotographic Congress, launched the Carte du Ciel, an international astronomical project to photograph every star in the sky, and compile a catalog, known as the Astrographic Catalogue, listing the positions of stars from the fourteenth magnitude down to the eleventh magnitude, from this photographic atlas. A total of eighteen observatories volunteered to take part in the initiative. The sky was divided into zones, and each observatory was responsible for taking photographs of their assigned areas. The project's findings were compiled into astrographic plates, which were then given to observatories and astronomical institutes worldwide as astrographic maps. Although the Carte du Ciel was expected to take six years, the project took much longer than expected and was never completed. Finally, in 1964, the International Astronomical Union announced the completion of the Catalogue, a directory in 254 printed volumes listing over four million stars.
The Harvard College Observatory, under the direction of Edward C. Pickering, did not participate in the Carte du Ciel project. Pickering, frustrated over the slow progress of the participating observatories, decided instead to have the Harvard College Observatory issue a photographic map of the sky. By 1903, the Harvard College Observatory had compiled 55 photographic glass plates, forming a complete map of the stars down to the twelfth magnitude and offering them for sale to astronomers. Although this map was the first of its kind to be published, due to its small scale, it did not allow for the analysis of changes in star positions, which the Carte du Ciel project was designed to do due to its bigger scale.
The collection is organized into three series:
- Observatoire Royal de Belgique, 1925-1929
- French observatories, 1920-1923
- Observatorio de San Fernando, 1916-1921
This finding aid was created in November-December 2021 by Dominic P. Grandinetti.
Collection title devised by the archivist.
- Cartes Photographiques du Ciel received by the Harvard College Observatory, 1916-1929 : an inventory
- Description rules
- Language of description
- EAD ID
Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository
Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA