Aerial camera

An aerial camera? Is Keele Observatory into aerial reconnaissance? No, but when war-surplus aerial cameras became available, many astronomers started using them for wide-angle astrophotography. So in the mid 1960s, an aerial camera was obtained. It takes 'five by four' plates (five by four inches is about 125 by 100 mm). Initially, some photographs were taken using Polaroid film, but a stock of very sensitive plates was also obtained, specially designed for astrophotography.

The camera is pretty massive. The lens is about six inches (150 mm) across and the camera is almost 3 feet long (just under a metre). We don't have any photographs of it in its early days, but here are two photographs from the late 1980s or early 1990s, when they were cleaned, painted and remounted by the Observatory Crew:

Aerial camera Aerial camera
The drive for the camera (from the Super-Schmidt camera)
Larger image
Top view of the completed camera
Larger image
Steve and camera
The camera in situ; Steve Doody is in the foreground


The mount and drive used is from the Super-Schmidt meteor camera. As the aerial camera was only suitable for old-style photographic film (which cannot not be obtained) this mount has now been restored to its original camera. Both the aerial and Super-Schmidt are valuable museum pieces. They represent cutting-edge wide field stellar photography from the 1960s. The Super-Schmidt was typical of professional research instruments and the aerial camera of amateur instruments.