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Plate Library

ING's photographic plate library is located on the northern side of the 2nd floor of the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) building (location map). Please contact the current librarian to obtain acess.

It consists of 4500 transparent and 1000 opaque photographic plates approximately and two machines: one for measuring distances on the plates and another one to take polaroid photographs. Plates cover the whole sky in different filters. This video by Brady Haran shows the plate library.

These are the features of the available surveys (for further information about these atlases please visit the UK Schmidt Telescope Unit & Plate Library of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh):

Northern Sky

Palomar Sky Survey (PSS), +overlays to identify the objects on the plates. Opaque plates. -42°<DEC<+90°.


Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSSII) in filters B and R, covering 894 fields in 0°<DEC<+90°. These plates were taken by the Oschin (48-inch) Schmidt telescope on Palomar mountain. Fields of view and scale are similar to the SERC survey (see below).


Southern Sky

ESO/SERC sky atlas in filters J and R, covering -20°>DEC>-90°. The first major task of the UKST was to survey the southern sky south of dec -20 on IIIa-J emulsion. Plates taken through the GG395 filter on 606 centres spaced at intervals of 5 degrees form the blue (3950-5400A) half of the ESO/SERC Southern Sky Survey. The plates are sky-limited with a limiting magnitude of Bj=22.5 and were taken between 1974 and 1987.

The matching red plates (6300-6900A) were taken with the ESO 1m Schmidt Telescope in Chile. Film and glass sets of the ESO/SERC Southern Sky Atlas have been made at the ESO Sky Atlas Laboratories at Garching, Munich.

ESO plates are 5.4°×5.4° at a scale of 67.6 arcsec/mm, and SERC plates are 6.4°×6.4° at 67.2 arcsec/mm.


SERC EJ Sky Survey in filter J. It consists of 288 plates covering 0°>DEC>-15° taken by UKST. The plates are 6.5°×6.5° at 65.7 arcsec/mm at the telescope.


SERC I/SR atlas of the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds. The UKST has taken pairs of plates on the 151 fields with dec < 0 and |b| < 10 plus 12 fields around the Magellanic clouds. The exposures have been deep I-plates (IV-N emulsion + RG715 filter) and matching short exposure red plates (IIIa-F emulsion + RG630 filter); the limiting magnitude is about I=19. The plates were taken between 1978 and 1985.


These are some interesting plates:

Object NamePlate Number
M45 Pleiades Open Cluster482
Horsehead Nebula840
M51 Whirpool Galaxy270
Triffid (M20) and Lagoon (M8) Nebulae521*
NGC 7000 North America Nebula286
M13 Globular Cluster391
M42 Orion Nebula768*
Omega Centauri and Centaurus A270*
NGC 1952 Crab Nebula554
M31 Andromeda Galaxy295
Large Magellanic Cloud56,57*
Small Magellanic Cloud28,29*
Coma/Virgo Cluster of Galaxies644,645,716,717
NGC 3031 Spiral Galaxy61
*: Southern chart

When working in the plate library please remember to put back all charts on the shelves and replace dust covers when you finish. Leave the plate library tidy. Thanks.

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Last modified: 10 August 2015