Antique photos from optical telescopes

The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) is home to the Astronomic Photographic Data Archive (APDA), a collection of photographic plates taken by optical telescopes from the mid-19th century through the late-20th century. Some of these plates are the only existing documentation of astronomic features that are no longer there. All of them represent shots of the night sky before the advent of "space junk."

It's an amazing project, and one that citizen scientists can get involved in as well. Through SCOPE—Stellar Classification Online Public Exploration—you can get a good look at the plates in the APDA archive and help professional scientists document and classify all the stars depicted in them.

Video Link


  1. I went to PARI as part of a college course. They’re a crazy awesome facility, with such wonders as underground tunnels, buildings designated by numbers, and radome left over from when it was owned by government agencies. (The smiley-face dish, according to legend, was the DoD saying “hi” to any spy satellites checking out the facility.) The sky there was dark enough for me to capture the orion nebula with my DSLR and kit lens!

    Some of the images at are images I helped to capture at PARI.

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