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Submission + - Unlocking 120 Years of Images of the Night Sky

MCastelaz writes: Researchers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit foundation located at a former NASA Tracking Station, are preparing to unlock 120 years of images of the night sky. The images are embedded on more than 220,000 astronomical photographic plates and films dating back to 1898 collected from over 40 institutions and observatories in the United States. These plates and films are housed in the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive at PARI..

The researchers plan to begin digitizing these collections this year, bringing these fantastic observational works by generations of astronomers who spent more than a million hours at telescopes to the general public and scientists worldwide . The PARI researchers are calling this the Astronomy Legacy Project. The researchers will use an extremely high precision, fast, scanning machine to do the work. To get the project off the ground, they are beginning with a crowdfunding campaign and the funds from that campaign will be used to buy the digitizing machine.

Submission + - New Life for Century Old Astronomical Data (pari.edu)

MCastelaz writes: A team of astronomers has launched a crowdfunding campaign to digitize 100 year old astronomical photographic plates . “With modern data analysis techniques applied to precisely digitized images of the night sky going back to the late 19th century, we expect new discoveries of celestial events that go flash in the night, like novae.” Says Dr. Michael Castelaz, Science Director at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute where this new research effort called The Astronomy Legacy Project is being developed. The project, which was recently launched on Kickstarter, has three weeks left to go.

Submission + - The Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria – Again?

MCastelaz writes: The manuscripts of the ancient Library of Alexendria, containing the knowledge of our ancestor's civilizations, were destroyed and lost forever. “In some sense, the same thing may be happening again, only this time the manuscripts are the more than million pieces of 19th and 20th century astronomical photographic data,” says Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) Science Director Dr. Michael Castelaz. Generations of astronomers patiently sat at telescopes and imaged the sky on photographic emulsion and used that data to formulate our theories from cosmology to planet formation, and now their data are threatened with loss due to age or neglect. “We have started a Kickstarter campaign called the Astronomy Legacy Project to preserve these data,” Castelaz reports. “A successful campaign will allow us to acquire a state-of-the-art digitizing machine that will precisely replicate a photographic plate.” The new machine will be used to digitize the more than 220,000 astronomical plates and films in the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive located on the PARI campus. These plates are from more than 40 collections from observatories and institutions across the United States.

Submission + - Exoplanet Count Blasts Through the 1,000 Barrier (discovery.com)

astroengine writes: The first 1,000 exoplanets to be confirmed have been added to the Europe-based Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia. For the last few weeks, astronomers (and the science media) have been waiting with bated breath as the confirmed exoplanet count tallied closer and closer to the 1,000 mark. Then, with the help of the Super Wide Angle Search for Planets (SuperWASP) collaboration, the number jumped from 999 to 1,010 overnight. All of the 11 worlds are classified as "hot-Jupiters" with orbital periods from less than 2 days to 8 days.

Submission + - Astronomy's 20th Century Legacy Preserved in 21st Century Cloud (pari.edu)

MCastelaz writes: A team of astronomers at the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive is launching a crowdfunding campaign to bring the diverse and rich astronomical photographic collections of 20th century astronomy into the 21st century digital world. Before the invention of digital cameras in the 1990's, and for more than 120 years before that, astronomers put in several million telescope hours photographing the night sky — measuring star brightnesses, detecting comets, planets, nebulae, mapping our Galaxy, and building the foundations of our understanding of our Universe. All of this raw beauty, and secrets yet to be discovered, are held as largely unexplored photometric, astrometric, spectral and surface brightness images on thin, fragile pieces of glass. Digitizing the glass photographic plates is the only way to forever preserve these several thousand terabytes of data acquired and left as a legacy to us by our greatest scientists studying the night sky, and giving future explorers a time machine to the past night sky. The project was recently launched on Kickstarter and has a little less than a month go.

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