Incredible Space Photos: A Century of Difference

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Century-Old Photos of Space Compared With What We See Today

On a clear night in 1880, American doctor and amateur astronomer Henry Draper decided to try something that had never been done before. Placing a photographic plate at the base of his 11-inch refracting telescope where the eyepiece would be, he aimed the apparatus at a specific point in the sky and focused in for 51 minutes. Photons of light accumulated on the plate, forming an image -- the first ever, in fact -- of the Orion Nebula.

Over a century later, Draper's historic photograph is entirely outclassed, yet it still shines with an inspiring beauty untouched by the decades. Following Draper's example, astronomers began zeroing in on the universe and capturing its previously unseen wonders. The ensuing pages reveal what they saw, then compare it to what state-of-the-art telescopes show us today.

(Image: Henry Draper)

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