On August 22, 2014 we posted an image of the Orion nebula across all our social media sites (it was not an article that went out on our website, but you can see the Facebook post here). This image compared the first ever photograph of Orion, which was taken back in 1880 by astronomer Henry Draper, with an image taken by Andrew Symes in 2013 on his iPhone. In the original image, Draper needed 50 minutes of exposure time to capture his view. Symes only needed one second (plus however long it took him to unlock his iPhone). You can see the image below:

Image of the Orion nebula via Henry Draper in 1880 (left) and Andrew Symes in 2013 (right)

In the caption of the post, we said: “Want to know how much technology has progressed in 100 years? Look no further…” And we stated that the photograph on the left is the first ever telescopic photograph of Orion, while the photo on the right  was taken over a century later with an iPhone. As you can see, the basic specs for each telescope are listed below each image.

Most people seemed to enjoy the image. However, there was a bit of a kerfuffle. Some people were (apparently) upset that we were comparing an iPhone image with the most advanced telescope from the 1880s. These individuals asserted that, to be accurate and fair, we should compare the most detailed image from 2014 with Draper’s image from 1880.

Your wish is our command….

The most detailed image of Orion actually comes from 2012. The image contains a billion pixels at full resolution and reveals about 3,000 stars. It was composed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla 2.2 meter telescope. Obviously, that’s a combination of data from two telescopes, which may make the comparison with Draper’s photograph a little problematic. Nonetheless, without further ado, we give you…

The Oldest Image of Orion Compared to the Most Detailed Image of Orion:

Image via Henry Draper in 1880 (left) and NASA/ESO 2012 collaboration (right). Composed by From Quarks to Quasars


Share This Article