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Andromeda Galaxy (M31) original

Tags: Andromega, galaxy, M31

The picture alongside is one of the first colour astronomical images—perhaps the first,—made by Bill Miller (1910–1981) on the 11th of August 1958. Bill used the Palomar (now Samuel Oschin) 1.2 m Schmidt Telescope, a telescope very similar to the UK Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring. From the photographic point of view, these telescopes are the equivalent of a reflecting 'lens' working at about F/2.5, with a focal length of about 3 meters. At this time, Bill worked at the Hale Observatories in Pasadena as its scientific photographer, and for many years up to and beyond his retirement in 1975 he was a unique source of knowledge on all aspects of professional astrophotography.

The image shown here was a 120 minute exposure on Super Anscochrome 4 x 5 inch sheet film. Though this transparency film had the then-remarkable speed equivalent to 100 ISO for short exposures in daylight, during the two hour exposure Bill estimated that it dropped to about 8 ISO.

This image was scanned from copy of Bill Miller's 1958 original, kindly loaned to Malin by Dr Robert Brucato, then of Palomar Observatories/Caltech. The importance of these images at the time is indicated by their prompt publication in Life magazine (Vol 46, April, 1959 p22–29), National Geographic Magazine (May 1959, p670–679) entitled "First Color Portraits of the Heavens", and Sky and Telescope magazine in 1959 (v18, 437)

Credit: Bill Miller