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History of night sky now open

The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) has initiated a crowd funding drive that will help make historic images of the night sky available via the Internet to the general public, scientists and students worldwide.

PARI is home to the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive (APDA), the national repository for photographic plates and films used by astronomers for more than 120 years to capture images of the universe. In recent years APDA has received collections from more than 40 North American institutions and observatories, with additional collections coming in regularly. These archives contain more than 220,000 images dating back to 1898.

“At PARI, we can access these plates on an individual basis,” said Science Director Dr. Michael Castelaz, “but to make them available via the Internet they must be scanned and digitized. We need to raise about $60,000 to acquire an extremely high precision, fast scanning machine, so we are turning to the public for help.

For the fund drive, PARI has established an Astronomy Legacy account at Contributions of any amount can be made online. Contributors can contact the team through the Facebook page

“We are fully committed to digitizing 120 years of photographic films and plates, placing this treasure in your hands,” said PARI Vice President Dr. David Clavier. “Please help us bring the past 120 years of the night sky into the future. Contribute what you can: donations are welcome, posts are welcome, tweets are welcome, and your expertise and encouragement are welcome. You become a part of the Astronomy Legacy Project Team with your contribution — part of a legacy itself for generations to come. And remember, no donation is too small.

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