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Since 1973, the Schmidt Telescope has undertaken several major sky surveys. The first was the blue half of the Southern Sky Survey on Kodak IIIa-J emulsion. Film and glass copies of these, together with the corresponding European Southern Observatory IIIa-F (red) survey, comprise the ESO/SERC Southern Sky Atlas. The full survey covered the sky from -17° declination to the south celestial pole. Other projects include the Near-Infrared Sky Survey and the Equatorial Survey (EJ) and (ER).

In 1990, the AAO and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) finalised an agreement for the Schmidt to carry out the Second Epoch Sky Survey (SES). These photographs will be taken on the same field centres as the original ESO/SERC Southern Sky Survey, but using red-sensitive Kodak IIIa-F emulsion instead of blue IIIa-J plates. The new plates, which will match the earlier SERC(J) plates, will enable users to determine the current positions and proper motions of HST guide stars, identify high proper-motion faint stars, and determine B-R colours of all objects on the plates.

The SES will be carried out in approximately the same sequence as the original SERC(J) survey (maintaining an epoch difference of about 15 years), and will be restricted to the 450 fields at intermediate to high galactic latitudes. A survey of the remaining 156 Milky Way fields, which will require relatively short exposures, will be carried out as a separate exercise.

The SES plates will be measured in PDS 2020 microdensitometers at STScI, in COSMOS at ROE and by the APM in Cambridge. They will be treated like all Schmidt survey plates in that they will be located permanently in the archive at ROE and all astronomers will have unrestricted access to film copies.

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