Catchers of the Light

by catcher Tuesday, November 12, 2013 2:47 AM

True Tales of Adventure, Adversity & Triumph

- Another 'Longitude' Only Much Much ... Better!!!


The ‘Catchers of the Light’ tells the true stories of the men and women who first photographed the heavens. Their lives are ones full of adventure, adversity and triumph - which would test the abilities of even the best author or screenwriter to recreate as a work of fiction. Sadly their names are largely unknown and all but forgotten - confined now to the closed pages of history. Through the book you are about to read, they come alive once again.


  • You will learn of the Scottish teacher from Dundee, Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming, who despite being abandoned, pregnant and alone in a strange country, gained employment as the housekeeper to a famous Harvard astronomer, and who became an eminent astronomer in her own right - even naming her son Edward Charles Pickering Fleming after her saviour. 
  • Or of the young boy, Edward Emerson Barnard raised in the slums of Nashville, Tennessee during the American Civil War, and who dared to look up at the stars and dream, amid the cholera and death that surrounded him; and yet survived to capture some of the finest images of the heavens ever taken. 
  • Or of the Irish Lord, William Parsons who married a rich heiress for her money, but in the end found true love, and the time to create a telescope in the grounds of his great estate, which enabled mankind to see for the very first time what the universe truly looked like. 
  • Or of Milton Lasell Humason, who began his life driving mules up a mountain carrying the materials to build a Great Observatory, who then became its Janitor, then its Night Assistant and finally despite having no qualifications and little education - a Staff Astronomer there - working with his famous collaborator Edwin Powell Hubble, who together put a ‘yardstick’ on the size of the Universe. 
  • And of the fisherman’s son from Estonia, Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt who blew off his right hand as a young boy in an experiment with gunpowder that went horribly wrong, but nevertheless lived to grind - literally single-handedly an optical system which is now aboard a Great Space Telescope, that has been used to find other ‘Earths’ orbiting distant stars - and whose sad fate was to be left to die unrecognised and alone in a Lunatic Asylum.


This book tells their stories and those of the many others who had to overcome misfortune, disease, war, death, Irish Leprechauns and even very unfriendly Cannibal natives before they could even begin to take the many hundreds of photographs you will see in its 1600 pages.


The book is divided into nine parts, each covering a specific aspect of the history of astronomical photography - its Origins, Lunar, and Solar Astrophotography, Solar System and Deep Space, Astrophotography, Photographic Astronomical Spectroscopy, Photographic Sky Surveys and Modern Digital Astrophotography. Also included are a number of useful Appendices on Astrophotography and a comprehensive Index.


Its Author Dr. Stefan Hughes has spent seven years researching and writing this book, as well as the forty years of experience and expertise needed to complete this magnum opus in a diverse career as an amateur and professional Astronomer, a qualified Genealogist and a Historian. As a young boy the Author too like Edward Emerson Barnard looked up at the stars and wondered, marvelling at the magnificent photographs he saw in the pages of his books - and especially the iconic ‘Horsehead’ nebula, longing to see it in his modest telescope - only to be disappointed. Forty years later he succeeded through the ‘eyes’ of the modern wonders of the Digital Camera and the GOTO telescope.


This inspired him to write a book of which one eminent astronomer wrote: “It is rare to find a magnum opus in astronomy that is so detailed, so interesting, and so expert over a wide range that it is hard to carry across the magnificence of this work.”


The Author has created a book which fully encapsulates the inscription found in an Ancient Egyptian Tomb, which reads: “Speak My Name and I Will Live for Ever”


In doing so he has ensured that the lives of the men and women who captured the heavens on photographic plate, plastic film and computer chip will not be forgotten.


“Every day our eyes catch the light of our memories – time spent with family, the journey to work, a special holiday, a beautiful sunset or a dark starlit night. Each image captured is a picture drawn in light – a photograph: only to be lost in our minds or forever forgotten. Nearly two hundred years ago a small group of amateur scientists achieved what had eluded mankind for centuries – the ability to capture a permanent record of an image seen by their own eyes – a moment in time frozen onto a surface. They had discovered Photography.”


They were the ‘Catchers of the Light’.

Buy the Book Here: 'Catchers of the Light'


Pioneers of Astrophotography

Mary Field, 3rd Countess of Rosse

by catcher Sunday, November 4, 2012 11:47 PM

Mistress of the Real 'Downton Abbey'

Born: 21st July 1813, Heaton Hall, Heaton, Yorkshire, England

Died: 22nd July 1885, 10 Connaught Place, Kensington, London, England

The popular British drama series 'Downton Abbey' has captured the hearts of audiences across the globe, with its story of a rich heiress who married an Earl, in order that both his ancestral line and his landed estate should be preserved by her money; but which ended with them falling in love.

Mary Field, the 3rd Countess of Rosse was mistress of the real 'Downton Abbey', who married her husband William Parsons (1800-1867), the 3rd Earl of Rosse, to ensure the survival of his family's titles, their money their houses and their lands, but above all their line.

All of this might sound mercenary - a young rich woman caught in a loveless marriage, but in the case of William Parsons and Mary Field, it was to quote an often used cliché - a ‘match made in heaven’. Together they forged a marriage of two like minds, two devoted parents, both greatly caring to those who relied on them for their livelihood, but with independent spirits to pursue their own interests.

William Parsons, when he was Lord Oxmantown married Mary Field a Yorkshire heiress, on the 14th  of April 1836 at the parish church of St. George’s Hanover Square, Middlesex . The financial security from this marriage, as  well as the ownership of Birr Castle (which his parents granted him before they left Ireland to live in Brighton, England)  allowed him to realize his scientific ambitions and plans - to build 'Great Telescopes' in order to 'to afford us some insight into the construction of the material universe'.

Mary Field (1813-1885) was the eldest daughter of John Wilmer Field, Lord of the Manors of Heaton,Shipley and Upper Helmsley in Yorkshire. She along with her younger sister Delia (1815-1873) were coheiresses to their father’s considerable fortune and estates. The ancestral home of the Field family was Heaton Hall in the then small village of Heaton, situated some two miles from the industrial town of Bradford, of which it is now a part.

To read more on her life as mistress of the real 'Downton Abbey' and how she became a talented pioneer of early photography, read the eBook chapter on William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse or buy the eBook 'Catchers of the Light'.

Heaton Hall, Heaton, Yorkshire

“It would be an injustice to the Countess of Rosse were this short notice of the demesne concluded without acknowledging the debt the people of Parsonstown owe to her. She has with most exquisite taste improved and made delightful the grounds about the castle, and freely opened them for their accommodation. She has made the town the residence of all who can command the means, and the envy of those who cannot.

She has has raised the tone of its society; but she has done what reflects much more credit on her mind; she has taken the most lively interest in the poor, and is constantly improving and changing in order to afford them work. The lake was commenced solely to give them employment, and since then, hundreds have been daily hired to do what but for beneficence might well remain undone.

The consequence of this conduct is, that she is universally esteemed and looked up to, and that her town is almost entirely free from the discontent and distress that are so rife in other places. The people are quiet and contented, and well disposed, and are as much indebted to the good sense that produced all this, as the world is to the talent that has astonished and is so; likely to benefit it.”


Buy the eBook or Printed Book at Catchers of the Light shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

William Usherwood

by catcher Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4:28 AM

The 'Comet Man'

Born: 31st August 1821, Marylebone, Middlesex, England
Died: 4th November 1915, Dorking, Surrey, England

In the late summer of 1858 a ‘Great Comet’ appeared which was so bright it could easily be seen in broad daylight; people were awed by it, artists painted it and the great astronomers of the day tried to photograph it. The famous Astrophotographer, Warren de La Rue attempted to capture it and failed. George Phillips Bond (1825-1865), the son of the Director of the Harvard College Observatory, even succeeded in photographing it on the 28th of September of that year. However he would later find out that he was beaten to it – by a single day, and therefore lost his claim of being the first person ever to photograph a Comet.

So which of the great observatories with their large telescopes claimed this remarkable feat as theirs:Greenwich, Berlin, Paris or St. Petersburg? And who was the astronomer whose name would live forever in the annals of the History of Photography - Sir George Airy, the Astronomer Royal; or Johann Galle, the discoverer of the Planet Neptune; or Giovanni Battista Donati (1826-1873), the comet’s discoverer? It was none of them!

The honour went in fact to - William Usherwood, an unknown miniature artist and commercial photographer from Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey, England. Yet his name like the object he photographed shone brightly for a while, before disappearing into the dark depths of space and time. So why did William Usherwood, with the aid of the camera he used for photographing babies and weddings succeed; whilst Bond with the ‘Great Harvard Refractor’ at his disposal only managed a photograph of the comet, which he himself admitted was poor and a day too late?

William Usherwood’s story, begins not on Walton Common where he captured the light of an object which man had not seen since the time before Rome ruled the known world; or at Dorking where he lived for a good part of life, but in the streets of the old parish of St. Marylebone in the old county of Middlesex, where he was born.

To read more on his life and work and the other early pioneers of amateur Astrophotography, read the eBook chapter on William Usherwood or buy the eBook or Printed Book at 'Catchers of the Light'.


Comet Donati by William Turner (1789-1862) of Oxford.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

Alfred Rordame

by catcher Tuesday, July 24, 2012 6:45 AM

'The Venusian'

Born 8th of June 1862, Oslo, Norway.
Died: 30th November 1931, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Alfred Rordame was the first person to photograph features on the cloud shrouded planet Venus.

He arrived in America in about 1880. He had been born on the 8th of June 1862 in Akershus, near Oslo, Norway, the son of Jacob Rordame and his wife Karoline Simmonsen. The first mention of him in official records is on the 4th of June 1880, when he is recorded in the US Census as living in the mining town of Eureka, Nevada and working as a violinist.

It is highly likely that he worked at one of the ‘hotels’, brothels or lodging houses built to support the town’s bulging population of some 10,000, swollen by the thousands of miners who had arrived following the discovery of large seams of lead and silver in ‘them there hills’. The population of Eureka reached a peak in 1878 and after then went into a steady decline as the mining seams dried up as did the wealth it brought.

By 1884 Alfred Rordame had left Eureka to live in the Mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah, where he remained for the rest of his life.  Several generations of Rordame have since been born  in Brigham Young’s city and many still live there up until the present day. Once settled in SLC he took up his violin again and began to play for the local Symphony Orchestra and take up again his interest in astronomy, which he had acquired prior to coming to America.

However, it was with regards to Alfred Rordame’s photographs of the Planet Venus, that his true fame as a pioneer of amateur Astrophotography rests. Venus is a notoriously boring object and somewhat difficult object to both observe and photograph. Firstly, Venus is an inner planet, so it will never be seen as a complete disc in a telescope. When Venus is in the position to be ‘Full’ it is located on the far side of the Sun relative to the Earth. When viewing Venus the planet will appear as a crescent or gibbous in shape. Secondly there are only certain times it can be seen easily, either just after sunset in the western sky or before sunrise in the eastern sky. In both cases it lies close to the sun.

The first image he took which showed features in its cloud cover was one obtained on the 14th of March 1921, shortly after sunset at 7.30 pm local time. The telescope used by Rordame in this instance was his 16-inch Mellish reflector. 

To read more on his life and work and the other early pioneers of amateur Astrophotography, read the eBook chapter on Alfred Rordame or buy the eBook or Printed Book at 'Catchers of the Light'

 Venus, 14th March 1921, 16-inch reflector, Alfred Rordame


Pioneers of Astrophotography

Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 10:51 PM

'The Optician'

Born: 30th March 1879, Jaani’s Place, Lounakula, Naissaar, Estonia
Died: 1st December 1935, Hamburg, Germany

Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt was without doubt one of the greatest opticians of all time. Almost every amateur has seen or used a telescope which owes its design to Schmidt’s invention. The concept of Schmidt’s design is simple, and in many ways too simple, something which may have contributed to the lateness of its invention. It is a design which could easily have been made 200 years earlier and not left until the twentieth century. Nevertheless since its introduction in 1930 it has proved to be one of the finest telescope optical systems ever created.

In tens of thousands of backyards, gardens, rooftops and amateur observatories all around the world, can be found a telescope whose origin lay in the brain and left hand of an Estonian optician named Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt (1879-1935). In his lifetime he remained largely unrecognized by the astronomical community, so much so that whilst he lived no telescope of his design was ever built by anybody other than himself.

Yet in 1936, less than a year after his death an 18-inch telescope made to his design was completed at the Mount Palomar Observatory. It was a telescope that was to revolutionize both amateur and professional astronomy for decades to come. Of this genius, his fellow Estonian, the astronomer Ernst Julius Opik (1893-1985), wrote:

“Perhaps the greatest advance—it could be called a revolution—in astronomical optics since Newton’s time took place in 1930, when a one-handed invalid from Estonia, who went to Germany to work in optics, constructed at Hamburg Observatory a photographic telescope of a new type. This man was Bernhard Schmidt. Photographic cameras all over the world, based on his invention, are called ‘Schmidt’, sometimes ‘schmidt cameras’ without a capital letter.”

The Schmidt Camera was an optical system of pure genius and simplicity. It had a wide field of view [of around 16 square degrees in his prototype] which not only gave high definition and sharpness across the whole of the photographic plate, its ‘fast’ focal ratio also enabled faint detail to be seen with much shorter exposures than those required by conventional telescopes. It was in effect the perfect Astrograph, which could be manufactured with minimal extra cost when compared to the enormous benefits it offered.

By creating the Schmidtspiegel or Schmidt reflector, Bernhard Schmidt became one of the greatest opticians the world has ever known, in stature equal to the likes of Hans Lippershey, Isaac Newton and Joseph Von Fraunhofer. Although statements as laudable as those given by Opik and the many others made after his death are entirely true, the reality for Schmidt during his life was very different.

For Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt it was a never ending physical and mental battle to get his optical designs recognized; in which his only companions were the ones so often befriended by geniuses – those of frustration, disappointment and loneliness.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt or buy the eBook 'Catchers of the Light'.


The First Schmidtspiegel, 14-inch 'Corrector' Plate, c1930, Hamburg Observatory: Photograph courtesy of the Hamburg Observatory Museum 

'Great Andromeda Spiral' (M31), Bernhard Schmidt, 14-inch Schmidtspiegel, 1932: Photograph courtesy of Hamburg Observatory

Buy the complete eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop


Pioneers of Astrophotography

Henri Chretien

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 10:50 PM

'The Man from the Oscars'

Born: 1st February 1879, Paris France
Died: 6th February 1956, Washington DC, USA

The French optician and astronomer, Henri Chretien holds the unique honour of being the only scientist to have been awarded a Hollywood 'Oscar' from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.  It was his  collaboration with the American astronomer, George Willis Ritchey, that led to the optical design which now bears their name and which is the basis of almost all of today’s new breed of ‘super telescopes’.

In 1910 in collaboration with George Willis Ritchey (18864-1945), an astronomer at the Mount Wilson Observatory,  they designed the now famous Ritchey-Chretien optical system affectionately known as the RC. However it would be a further seventeen years before even a small prototype of their design was completed - not in America, but in Paris, France. It was a modest affair with a primary mirror of only 19.9-inch (50cm) aperture and a ‘fast’ focal ratio of f6.8.

Testing of the first RC resulted in a mediocre performance due to an unstable mount and the poor 'seeing' of the Parisian suburbs. The quality of the images obtained were disappointing, which was not surprising given that an RC optical design only performs best when used with an accurate motor driven mount under a clear and transparent sky.

In 1954 Henri Chretien received a ‘Merit’ Oscar along with Earl Sponable, Sol Halperin, Lorin Grignon, Herbert Gragg, Carlton and W. Faulkner - all names now long forgotten: ‘For creating, developing and engineering the equipment, processes and techniques known as [20th Century Fox's] CinemaScope.’ The award was also shared with Fred Waller: ‘For designing and developing the multiple photographic and projection systems which culminated in Cinerama.’ 

He was the only astronomer ever to have received such an award.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on Henri Chretien or buy the eBook 'Catchers of the Light'. 

The First 'Ritchey-Chretien' Telescope, 19.9-inch aperture, c1930: Photograph courtesy of the Henri Chretien Archives

Buy the complete eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop


Pioneers of Astrophotography

George Willis Ritchey

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 10:49 PM

'The Visionary'


Born: 31st December 1864, Tuppers Plains, Ohio, USA
Died: 4th November 1945, Azusa, California, USA

George Willis Ritchey was not only one of the greatest designers of Telescope Optical Systems, but more importantly he was a visionary whose ideas were too radical for the age in which he lived. It was his collaboration with the French optician Henri Chretien that led to the optical design which now bears their name and which is the basis of almost all of today’s new breed of ‘super telescopes’.

On the 13th of December 1908 atop a mountain in southern California a ‘Great’ telescope opened its dome to see the night sky for the very first time. Not only was this a memorable occasion for those who had constructed it, but it also marked the end of one era in Astronomy and the beginning of another.

For three centuries ever since the days of Galileo the refracting telescope had dominated astronomical research in almost every observatory across the globe. Its rival the mirrored reflector was looked upon with scorn and contempt by the astronomical establishment. They saw it as the instrument of amateurs and cranks, and not fit to be given dome space in their Great Observatories.

Now the age of the glass lens and the refractor was gone, and the new age of the large silvered mirrored reflector had arrived; for the telescope that saw its firstlight in 1908, at the summit of Mount Wilson, over 5700 feet above sea level, was such an instrument. It had a mirror of 60-inches aperture, which at the time, made it the largest operational telescope in the world. The man who had ground, polished and nurtured the mirror was George Willis Ritchey (1864-1945).

He was born the son of a cabinet maker of Irish emigrant stock, in a small Ohio settlement whose name few have heard and not many more have lived in. Yet despite these humble beginnings and probably because of them, he grew up to become not only a great optician and telescope designer, but also an outstanding Astrophotographer whose images of Deep Space Objects (DSOs) were the finest of their day

His images of such iconic objects as the as Great Spiral Galaxies in Andromeda (M31),Canes Venatici (M51), Ursa Major (M101) and Triangulum (M33) were of the most incredible quality and greatly improved upon those taken earlier by the likes of Andrew Ainslie Common, Isaac Robert, James Edward Keeler and William Edward Wilson.

In 1910 in collaboration with the French optician, Henri Chretien (1879-1956) they designed the now famous Ritchey-Chretien optical system affectionately known as the RC. It was this design that brought George Willis Ritchey and the Mount Wilson Observatory’s Director, George Ellery Hale into conflict. Ritchey believed he should at least have been allowed to make a prototype of the new design, but Hale was adamant it was too new and too different to waste precious time on. Any telescope he had anything to do with would be constructed using traditional designs only.

In 1919 Hale fired Ritchey, but not before he had finished work on the mirror for his new 100-inch Hooker reflector. A deeply hurt and disillusioned Ritchey left the mountain, never to return. Left to ponder what might have been, he scratched a living growing oranges, lemons and avocados.

In 1928 Ritchey wrote of his dreams for the future of telescope design]:

“This is the incomparable exploration - the effort to bring the resources of the Universe to the service of mankind. This series of telescopes, by revealing to all men, graphically, by means of exquisite photographs, a Universe of which the Earth, the Sun and the Milky Way are but an infinitesimal part, will bring to the world a greater Renaissance, a better Reformation, a broader science, a more inspiring education, a nobler civilization. This is the Great Adventure. These telescopes will reveal such mysteries and such riches of the Universe as it has not entered the heart of man to conceive. The heavens will declare anew the Glory of God.”

On the 24th of April 1990 an event took place which proved Ritchey right and Hale wrong. The words spoken by George Willis Ritchey over sixty years earlier, eloquently described the work that the Hubble Space Telescope launched that day was soon to perform, but especially so - as it was his optical and Chretien’s design which made it all possible.

Ritchey and Chretien were visionaries ahead of their time, often vilified and ignored by the astronomical establishment for their ‘new curves’ optical design. Today in space and in an ever increasing number of backyards and gardens across the world these two men’s names are remembered for the ‘new breed’ of telescope that has changed and is still changing our understanding of the universe in which we live.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on George Willis Ritchey or buy the eBook 'Catchers of the Light'.

'Edge On' Spiral Galaxy NGC 4565 in Coma Berenices, George Willis Ritchey, 60-inch reflector, 1910: Photograph courtesy of Mount Wilson Observatory

Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 10:24 PM

'The Leviathan Man'

Born: 17th June 1800; York, Yorkshire, England
Died: 31st October 1867, Seapoint, Monkstown, Dublin, Ireland

William Parsons was the ‘Great Telescope’ Builder, whose 72-inch Reflector was for almost three quarters of a century the largest telescope in the world. He did something no one else had done before or since - create almost single handedly a telescope of such a size and use it to ‘afford us some insight into the construction of the material universe’.

He made drawings of Deep Space Objects (DSOs) which showed for the very first time what many of them truly looked like. It was he who first discovered with his ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown’ the ‘Spiral’ nature of certain nebulae.

William Parsons (1800-1867), the 3rd Earl of Rosse was born into an age when wealthy amateur scientists could and did make great contributions to our understanding of the universe in which we live.

He was the first of the great telescope builders who created almost single handedly a series of speculum metal mirrored reflectors of ever increasing size; beginning with a 6-inch in 1826, followed by a 15-inch in 1830, then soon afterwards by a 24-inch, which was then superseded in 1839 by a 36-inch; and finally in 1845 construction was completed on his famous 72-inch telescope - the ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown’. This telescope was to remain the largest telescope in the world for over 70 years until 1917 when it was ‘overtaken’ by the 100-inch Hooker Reflector at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California, USA.

Although William Parsons never used any of his telescopes to take photographs of the Deep Space Objects (DSOs) he observed, he nevertheless made vital discoveries regarding their structure. His drawings of DSOs made by him and his assistants at Birr Castle during the period 1845 to 1867, showed for the very first time accurate representations of their true appearance, later to be confirmed by the photographs of Isaac Roberts (1829-1904), William Edward Wilson (1851-1908), James Edward Keeler (1857-1900) and others.

Above all else, William Parsons demonstrated the great potential reflecting telescopes had in the future conduct of astronomical research. An opinion that was later to be proved correct. The age of telescope building at Birr in the years 1826 to 1845 marked the onset of the ‘death’ of the ‘Great Refractor’. However it was to be others who caused ‘its’ death; Andrew Ainslie Common dealt ‘it’ the fatal blow, and it was James Edward Keeler who put the nails in ‘its’ coffin.

In 1845 William Parsons began using his 72-inch Reflector and during the course of his observations noticed that a number of the bright ‘nebulae’ exhibited a definite spiral structure to them. The 3rd Earl of Rosse’s discovery of the spiral nature of certain nebulae helped fuel the flames of a long standing argument between himself and another great astronomer of the time – Sir John Herschel.

Rosse believed that all ‘nebulae’ were made up of individual stars, a fact which would become evident if telescopes of sufficient size were available to observe them; on the other hand Herschel believed that not all nebulae are ‘resolvable’ and some of them are made up of clouds of gas which collapse to form stars.

History has subsequently shown that both were right and both were wrong in equal measures! Certain nebulae are in fact made up of clouds of gas, some of which are even ‘star forming nurseries’; whilst others including Rosse’s ‘spirals’ were in fact external galaxies made up of individual stars, much resembling our own Milky Way; but situated millions of light years beyond the boundaries of our own ‘Island Universe’

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.

 William Parsons' drawing of the famous 'Whirlpool' Nebula (M51) in Canes Venatici, 1845

Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

Milton Lasell Humason

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 9:23 PM

'The Mule Skinner' 

Born: : 19th August 1891, Dodge Center, Minnesota, USA
Died:18th June 1972, Mendocino, California, USA

Milton Lasell Humason worked closely with Edwin Powell Hubble on the determination of the distances of galaxies; despite having started his career as a ‘mule skinner’ and later as a janitor at the Mount Wilson Observatory.

In order to tell the real story of Edwin Powell Hubble, it is also necessary to include that of Milton Lasell Humason (1891-1972). Like Hubble, Milton Lasell Humason was born into a working class family from a small Midwestern American town. Unlike Marshfield - Dodge Center, Minnesota - the birthplace of Milton Lasell Humason has no School, Drive or Space Telescope to remember him by.

Yet in truth Humason also deserves his share of recognition, in respect of the monumental discoveries now so often attributed solely to Edwin Powell Hubble.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on Milton Lasell Humason or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light' 

The 'Horsehead' Nebula (B33), Milton Lasell Humason, 200-inch reflector, 1951



Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

Edwin Powell Hubble

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 9:22 PM

'The Yardstick Man'

Born: 20th November 1889, Marshfield, Missouri, USA
Died: 28th September 1953, San Marino, California, USA

Edwin Powell Hubble was one of the greatest astronomers of the twentieth century.He will always be remembered for the Law which bears his name; and more importantly for his pioneering efforts to put a ‘yardstick’ to the true size of the universe.

Edwin Powell Hubble (1889-1953) was without doubt one of the greatest astronomers who ever lived. Anybody with even a passing interest in the night sky will have seen the magnificent images taken by the great space telescope which now bears his name. Not so many will know why he was granted such an honour, or how as a young boy born into a working class family from an ordinary small Midwestern American town should now be its most famous citizen.

Marshfield, Missouri is to all intents and purposes – ‘Hubble Town’. As soon as you enter Marshfield off of the famous route 66 highway you know who was born here. There are signs for East and West Hubble Drive. The town’s elementary school is named the ‘Edwin P. Hubble Elementary School’. Outside of the town’s courthouse you might expect to see a statue of a former mayor or a famous judge – not in Marshfield – you have a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope to greet you!

What was it that Hubble did - to make him so famous? When you hear astronomers say this Galaxy was so many million light years away and that Galaxy is the most distant ever discovered – you have Edwin Powell Hubble to thank.

Until the pioneering work of Hubble in the 1920s, nobody had any real idea of how big the universe was. It was not even known whether certain ‘nebulae’ now known as Galaxies were within the confines of our own Milky Way or did they lay way beyond its boundaries as individual ‘Island Universes’.

Hubble was the first person to put a ‘yardstick’ to the size of the Universe by determining that Galaxies were in fact separate star systems lying at distances far beyond our Milky Way, whose light had left their boundaries long before man had even walked on the Earth.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on Edwin Powell Hubble or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.

The 'Hubble Space Telescope', Marshfield Missouri

Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

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Stefan Hughes began his career as a professional astronomer, gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Astronomy from the University of Leicester in 1974 and his PhD four years later on the 'Resonance Orbits of Artificial Satellites due to Lunisolar Perturbations', which was published as a series of papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. After graduating he became a Research fellow in Astronomy, followed by a spell as a lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Queen Mary College, London. Then came a ten year long career as an IT Consultant. In 'mid life' he spent several years retraining as a Genealogist, Record Agent and Architectural Historian, which he practiced for a number of years before moving to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where for the past ten years he has been imaging the heavens, as well as researching and writing the 'Catchers of the Light' - A History of Astrophotography.