Perhaps you’ve seen that viral image that compares the very first image ever taken of Orion all the way back in the 1800’s to the most detailed. What’s not to love about something that shows how much technology has progressed over the last 200 years—about how astrophotography looked before computers, before cell phones, and before the internet? “Modern” astrostrophotography didn’t get a footing until long after the 1800’s… one could even assert that the launch of Hubble coincided with its rise. But we’ve certainly come a long way since then.
Let’s take a look at various regions within and outside of our galaxy and see how they’ve changed in the face of evolving technology…
Note from author: Yes, we know that the sliders are small, but back in the 90’s, high-resolution imaging wasn’t commonplace. Nor were we able to secure larger “then” images (ergo, we are working with what we have). It’s also important to note that only a few of these images were taken using the same telescope. Imaging power obviously dictates how clearly regions can be resolved, not just the date on which an image as taken. Even now, grainy images similar to these “then” examples are captured by amateurs all over the globe. Yet, in each case, we tried to use the best image of the structure to compare it with the more modern images.
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