David F. Malin

Version 1: 1989


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The familiar statement that a picture is worth a thousand words is nowhere more true than in astronomy where photographs are often of objects too exotic faint or distant to be simply described. While these pictures may be a major stimulus or even inspiration to investigators in many branches of our science, there is more to astronomical photography than mere picture - making. The photographic plate combines the role of a sensitive detector of almost infinite area with that of a display and storage device capable of recording the position, brightness and morphology of myriads of objects in a single exposure. It does all this without the aid of a computer or a vacuum or cooling and the end result requires no machine to read it. Other detectors of course have their strengths and weaknesses but only photography offers this combination of features so ideally suited to a wide - field telescope like the AAT.

This compendium of practical guidance in the art of photography on a large telescope is the result of fifteen stimulating years at the Anglo-Australian Observatory. Most of the detail given here is written specifically for users of the AAT and is derived from our own experience of the telescope and its associated facilities. It is concerned primarily with obtaining plates of the highest possible quality from an instrument specifically designed to that end. We do not discuss post - processing image manipulation techniques such as unsharp masking or photographic amplification or photography in colour. These processes have been fully described elsewhere.

Finally it must be acknowledged that sharing a mountain top with the UK Schmidt group has provided a constant stimulus to our own improvement. One could not wish for a more constructive or enjoyable environment.

David Malin


This version of the manual is identical in anll essential respects to the LaTeX/Hardcopy version of 1989. The only material difference is that some hyperlinks have been inserted to enable easy reference to other relevant documents, and some of the formatting has been adjusted for better readibility on a WWW browser. The original figures were no longer available in electronic form, and so had to be scanned from the available `top copy'. Consequently, most of the figures are somewhat grotty in appearance.

Chris Tinney, Feb 1996.

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