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last change 2009 December 2, R. Arlt
Virtual Observatory
 M42 taken in 1889

Astronomical photography in Potsdam started in 1879 at the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam. The plate collection contains the oldest systematic wide-field archives and are part of the existing virtual observatories world-wide.

Replica of Lohse's camera
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In 1879, Wilhelm Oswald Lohse (1845-1915) constructed a camera with which he took several hundred images, an example is the Orion nebula on the left. The entire Potsdam plate collection contains more than 10 000 plates from the period of 1879-1970. The plates contain valuable astronomical information easily to be retrieved. The Potsdam wide-field plate collection reflects also the history and development of the Potsdam Observatory.

The archived astronomical wide-field photographic observations are now a part of the existing virtual observatories world-wide. Their importance comes from the possibility to monitor astronomical objects with long-term coverage. The capabilities of today's scanners for quick plate digitization and the on-line access to the plate information have increased the chances of scientific use of the archived observations. Information about the wide-field photographic archives and their contents can be found in the Wide-Field Plate Database (WFPDB), installed in Strasbourg and mirrored in Potsdam. ( The development center is located in Sofia (

Many other observatories possessing large archives such as Asiago, the Royal Observatory of Belgium, Rozhen Observatory, the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, David Dunlap Observatory, Bamberg, the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, Harvard College Observatory, Maria Mitchell Observatory, Sonneberg Observatory, Midi-Pyrenees Observatory, Valencia Observatory, the Main Astronomical Observatory Kiev, etc. have started scanning projects on their archive plates.