“intelligent men are the first to lose their wits” — Eisenhower One Dollar Coin

Today, the Eisenhower One Dollar Coin remembers when Dr. J. W. Draper first attempted photographing the moon on December 18, 1839 and Mr. Bond photographed the moon through a telescope on December 18,1849.

On December 18, 1890, the New York Camera Club met and enjoyed a presentation on Photographing the Stars.

From the Photographic Times, An Illustrated Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of Artistic and Scientific Photography, of January 2, 1891:


Prof. James E. Keeler, who is connected with the Lick Observatory in California, gave an interesting lecture at the rooms of the N. Y. Camera Club on Thursday evening, December 18th, upon astronomical photography as practiced at the observatory, and illustrated his remarks with some lantern slides which were excellent in their make, as well as giving some of the best specimens of star photography.

Prof. Keeler is not the photographer at the Lick Observatory, but has charge of the department of physical construction of the planets. He is an amateur photographer, and as such has taken many fine pictures, and naturally has watched the work at the observatory on Mount Hamilton with much interest.

Prof. Keeler said that astronomical photography presented few difficulties and that more knowledge of astronomy was required than of photography by the observer; in other words, that the ratio between the two was about three parts of astronomy to one part of photography.

If, however, a photographer should attempt to photograph a star he would find that his image would be blurred, owing to the movement of the object during the exposure, therefore it was necessary that the instrument must be kept in motion in keeping with the motion of the star, and the apparatus for photographing stars, therefore, adjusted to meet these difficulties.

The usual method of keeping the star on the plate in photographing was by moving the telescope, but owing to the size of the instrument at the Lick Observatory this was impossible, as the telescope weighed seven tons.

The plan adopted, therefore, was to make the plate movable by means of turning screws.

When the photographer wished to do some of his work the thing first to be done was to move the big telescope so that a lens could be capped over the end.

It is necessary to put on a different lens for photographic purposes and it happens that a different focus is obtained in the big telescope.

The dry plate is therefore placed in the tube nine feet from the eye piece, a hole having been cut in it for that purpose. A Seed 26 plate is used and for development the ordinary pyro and potash. The developer is used very weak and plenty of time given to bring out the image.

When the plate is developed the operator has to go it in a blind sort of fashion, as the smaller star images will not appear till the developing work is done.

Smaller stars than can be seen with the naked eye are located on the dry plate and brought out by development.

This is owing to the fact that the effect to the eye in looking at a star is immediate and the light seen as sharp as is possible, but when the rays are directed on a plate the light is cumulative and increases on the image till enough light is gained to fix the star, and of course on development it is brought out clearly.

The clear air at Mount Hamilton makes it more desirable for the uses of photography, and many pictures are taken there.

They are mostly small stars, however, and the photographs are made for the purpose of measurements.

The photographs of the planets are more difficult to secure to good advantage and are not so useful as the drawings. The reason is owing to the refraction in the atmosphere.

Some fairly good pictures have, however, been made of Jupiter and Saturn, and this winter pictures of Mars will be taken.

Prof. Keeler showed pictures of the planets and the moon, as well as drawings to illustrate the difference between the two.

The outer ring of Saturn, which was not discovered till the big Lick telescope was turned on the planet, does not show in the photograph.

The pictures of the Milky Way, which Prof. Keeler has in his collection of lantern slides, are most excellent, and are the best ever taken. The hundreds of stars shown on the picture are none of them visible to the naked eye.

Another interesting series were photographs of the corona of the sun taken during eclipses.

One, in particular, showed the peculiar rays of the corona noticed last year in South America. The photographs of the planet Jupiter showed plainly the different positions of the spots and bands on the surface of the planet, which demonstrate that they are constantly changing, and that probably the surface of Jupiter is a mass of changing matter.

Moon pictures thrown on the screen were as excellent as any that have been made.

Prof. Draper of this city took the first moon picture in 1840, and thousands taken since, while, of course, much better, owing to the primitive state of photography in those days, have not practically from an astronomic standpoint been of much aid.

The best of the moon and planet pictures, however, give about the same appearance that would be given through a telescope about half the size of the one used in making the photographic specimen.

It took Dr. Draper twenty minutes to get his picture of the moon by the old daguerreotype process.

Indeed, it is said that Daguerre himself made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a picture of the moon.

George Bond of Harvard College ten years later made some very excellent pictures of the moon.

The discovery of the collodion process aided in making star photography more successful. It is a well-known fact that better photos are obtained through the smaller telescopes than through the big ones

Photographing stars, especially the small ones, is tedious work, as in some cases the exposure must last for several hours.

During all that time the plate or telescope must be moved so that the image of the star will continue in one place.

The exposure for a star of the sixteenth magnitude is two hours, and only one at a time can be secured unless the stars happen to be of the same magnitude, so that getting clusters is particularly long and tedious in its operation.

In procuring the photographic star pictures, often what is known as the trailing process is followed, that is, the plate is exposed to the star, and that no attempt is made to fix the image in one place, but it passes along over the plate, making a trail.

A number of trails can, of course, be got on one plate, and then be studied out and measured afterward.

The exposure for planets are short—that of a sun spot taken in Paris was about as lightning-like as possible, the shutter being attached to the strongest kind of a spring.

The exposure for the moon takes about a quarter of a second and that for Jupiter about four seconds.

People who visit the Lick Observatory often ask very remarkable questions in regard to the telescope as well as to the methods of photographing the stars.

The covering of the observatory is made of three-inch steel plates, and, of course, is arranged so that a plate can be moved to allow the telescope to point to any part of the heavens.

A visitor who happened into the observatory when all the plates were closed asked most earnestly if the steel plates were transparent.

A frequent question asked in regard to star photographing is if a flash light is not used to make the exposure.

There is an old saying that intelligent men are the first to lose their wits when entering an astronomical observatory and seem to forget the simplest laws.

Many cases of this have been noticed at the Lick Institution.—New York Times.


The Eisenhower One Dollar Coin shows with an image of Dr. J. W. Draper, circa mid-19th century.

Eisenhower One Dollar Coin