Archives of Photographic PLates for Astronomical USE

Leibniz Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam

The Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics (AIP) is one of the oldest astronomical institutions in Germany.

Within our Library we maintain a collection of photographic plates from the beginning of their use as the medium for optical astronomy up to early 1970’s, spanning one century of observational heritage and data. The collection includes plates done by astronomers such as Karl Schwarzschild or Ejnar Hertzsprung, to name a few. A substantial part of the Carte du Ciel, one of the first surveys in astronomy using photographic plates, is also in the collection.
Also in the plate collection are e.g. the Potsdam survey of the Northern BD stars. Also development of new observational techniques, e.g. application of Objective Prisms, observations of dark Nebulae, Eclipsing Binary Stars took place at Potsdam. Also, new emulsions for photographic plates, e.g. with Schleussners dry photographic plates were developed.

The earliest optical observations with different instruments at the AIP date back to 1870’s. The idea to construct a huge astronomical telescope (in those days) had already been discussed shortly after the founding of the observatory in 1874. In 1889 a double refractor, with apertures of 32.5 and 23.5 cm and a focal length of 3.4 m, had just been mounted in the dome to the west of the main observatory building; it was used mainly for cartography of northern-hemisphere stars as part of the observatory’s contribution towards the Carte du Ciel which had been planned by the Paris congress of astronomers in 1887. Although this instrument was very practical and successful for taking photographic records of star fields, it was too small to take over the spectroscopic observation of radial velocities.

Telescopes and Instruments

More on instruments and telescopes Potsdam Telescopes and Instruments


Mollweide diagrams of Potsdam plates in the data releases: