Press Release: 17th September 2007

Rare and Historical Astronomical Images Available Digitally as Science Photo Library Acquires the Royal Astronomical Society's Collection

Earth's celestial circles, 1708 artworkHalley's comet, photographed in 1910

Left: Earth's celestial circles, 1708 artwork
Right: Halley's comet, photographed in 1910

Science Photo Library (SPL), the world's leading provider of scientific images, is now representing the photographic and illustration collection of The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). The collection dates back to 1860's, and until now hasn't been easily accessible without a danger of damage to the material.

SPL already has a substantial astronomical collection of approximately 25,000 images including the early developments in space exploration to the latest space images obtained by the most modern telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the VLT telescopes on the top of the Andes in Chile. SPL's Managing Director Giancarlo Zuccotto says: "Space images have an intrinsic beauty confronting humans to the immense scales of our Universe. Astronomy is one of the oldest fundamental sciences, and the Royal Astronomical Society's archive is a key addition to the SPL collection in detailing and explaining the history of this science".

The RAS collection is comprehensive and wide-ranging. There are large numbers of photographs and illustrations of famous astronomers, observatories and events. There are also exquisite hand-drawn maps of the Moon and the heavens, beautifully illustrated charts of constellations, and copies of iconic publications such as Newton's 'Principia Mathematica' and Gilbert's 'De Magnete'.

SPL's Manager of Scientific Relations Gary Evans says: "There had long been a feeling that the archives of the Society were under-used, but that no suitable commercial partner had yet emerged. As well as providing a sound commercial model, SPL understands the importance of the scientific reputation of such a prestige society".

Notes to Editors:

1. Science Photo Library (SPL) is the world's leading provider of science photos and holds a collection of more than 250,000 images covering an extensive range of subjects: People & Lifestyle, Health & Medicine, Flowers, Animals, Environment, Astronomy & Space, Science, Technology & Industry, and History.

2. The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organises scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognises outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.