Glass Plates

Yerkes Observatory is home to more than 175,000 astronomical glass plates, dating from 1897 to the 1990s.

Part of the University of Chicago collection, the majority of the plates are in situ at Yerkes Observatory. Collection strengths include sky surveys, spectra, and objective prism plates. Plates are organized by plate number and series. Generally, each series is associated with a single telescope, although some series include plates from multiple telescopes and even multiple locations. For more information about any of the resources listed below, please contact the Yerkes Project Team.

Currently a small percentage of plates are digitized, but research is encouraged! There are multiple ways to search:

In LUNA

This is a good place to see what is digitized and available. The material in LUNA is a visual inventory of scanned plates, and can be scanned here.

It is also possible to search directly in the LUNA site, which allows for more specific keyword searches as well as faceted searches by date, type of plate, observer, and right ascension.


In Knowledge@UChicago

Tiff and FITS files and catalogs associated with plates utilized in publications and research are stored in the Knowledge@UChicago repository.


By plate series

Plate series are categories of plates and are the way the plates are organized in the vault. Series names can be related to the telescope, observation type, observer, or other descriptor. Series are currently tracked in spreadsheets, and searching by series is a good way to look for plates related to a general research focus, telescope type, date of observation, or declination.

The best way to open these .csv files and maintain formatting is to download them to your computer, then use the File> Open method in your spreadsheet program of choice (Excel, Numbers, Google Sheets, etc.) Double-clicking to open will work, but formatting of special characters may display incorrectly.

Please note: series inventories are always being updated. As series are cleaned and prepped for public use, we will continue to make them available. If you do not see a series that you believe to be part of the Yerkes collection or have any other questions about the plates, please contact the Yerkes Project Team. We are happy to help!

General series

Telescope Series Name Plate numbers Date range README Full csv By Dec Adtl notes Assc logbooks
10-in Bruce
6-in Bruce
3-in Ross
Other
Barnard I-XXXVII-d
10B 48.5–1925
6B 1-1831
3B 4-1842
Bd 48a-416
F 1-328
FP 1-108
1897-1899
1902-1934
1897-1925
1897-1926
1903-1920
1900-1930
1905-1926
README Full csv By dec Notes Logbook
10-inch Bruce
6-inch Bruce
Other
Barnard Comets C 1-608 1893-1924 README Full csv By dec Notes Logbook
40-in refractor 40-in FRy FRy 1-49 1900-1901 README Full csv By dec Notes Logbook
41-in reflector 41-in 1
41-in 2
41-in White
41-in Monet
Yk41 1-1110
Yk41 1111-1528
Yk41-White 1-12 & Yk41 254-259f
Yk41-Monet 1-26
1969-1980
1980-1996
1973
1974
README Full csv By dec Notes 41-in 1
41-in 2
41-in White
41-in Monet
24-in reflector 24-in R Ry 1-69, R 1-1951
R 1952-3519
R 3520-4631
R 4632-4923
R 4924-5667
1901-1907
1907-1916
1916-1923
1923-1926
1926-1940
README Full csv By dec Notes Ry 1-69, R 1-1951
R 1952-3519
R 3520-4631
R 4623-4923
R 4624-5667
6-in attached to 40-in refractor Sullivan S S 1-55 1904-1907 README Full csv By dec In process Logbook

Lick

Telescope Series Name Plate numbers Date range README Full csv By Dec Adtl notes Assc logbooks
Lick Willard 6-in
Lick Dalmeyer 5.5-in
Lick Lantern lens
Lick Voightlander 1-in
Barnard L and LC L 1-161
LC 1-40
1889-1899
1889-1894
README Full csv By dec Notes HD Logbook
HE Logbook

Halley's Comet

Telescope Series Name Plate numbers Date range README Full csv By Dec Adtl notes Assc logbooks
Several
6-in Brashear, 2.25-in Tessar
HD
HE
HE Tessar
HD 7-36
HE 1-60
HE-T 1-10
1910 README
README
Full csv
Full csv
Not applicable None HD Logbook
HE, HE Tessar Logbook


By logbook

This is a good way to search for information about a particular plate or a group of plates and find notes by astronomer and observers. If you have plate numbers, it is likely the most efficient way to find information about a particular plate as well as other plates "nearby," like searching the stacks in a library. Logbooks can also help you identify particular plates of interest in the collection, and often include tangential information like developer formulas and calculations.


Support for this project comes from the National Science Foundation (Grant AST-2101781), University of Chicago College Innovation Fund, John Crerar Foundation, Kathleen and Howard Zar Science Library Fund, Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, and Yerkes Future Foundation.