A Guide to Astromicroscopy

Part I:  Introduction to Astromicroscopy

by Samuel D. Bissette

Copyright 1994

What is Astromicroscopy?

Astromicroscopy is a method of astronomical observing in which the night sky is photographed without magnification using color slide film and a 35mm camera; filters remove certain light pollution and ultraviolet bands. The resulting mounted slides are  viewed either by projection or through a microscope to determine the details of the sky objects. At this point, using a process called astrophotomicrography,  color slide photos can be made at various magnifications of objects or areas shown on the slide for later   projection up to any projection screen size.


During 1991 the author was using a microscope as a tool for producing material for paintings of microscopic subjects.  By chance, a color slide of the night sky was placed under the microscope to see the grain of the film. It revealed as well hundreds of stars and nebulae faintly recorded in the film emulsion thereby providing the opportunity for experimentation and development of an unconventional method of astronomical observing.   The result was the ability to create 35mm color slides of sufficient clarity and richness of color that they could be used as an astronomical data base for microscopic studies of the night sky.  Further experimentation produced some expertise in photomicrography which was used  to provide a form of astrophotography. Because a search of the available literature failed to find existing work in this area, all procedures were formulated by the author.

A presentation on the subject was made to the Southern Star Astronomical Convention in Little Switzerland, N.C., in May 1992. A successful attempt made to photograph the Northern Hemisphere using this process  provided the data for the next step: a systematic  microscopic examination of  the Northern Hemisphere, carried out in June - July, 1994. See the Astromicroscopy Research Project presented in Part III  of this Guide where four pages of color photos and accompanying text describe the noteworthy objects, configurations, and phenomena found.

In March 1994 the Cape Fear Astronomical Society of Wilmington, N.C. issued a news release to the affiliates of the Astronomical League of the United States describing this   "unconventional method" of astronomical observing. As a result, further information was disseminated by the Astronomical League, its affiliated clubs and societies, John Wagoner of the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas and organizations in the planetarium community.  The documents in Part II are now available on the global computer networks of CompusServe, Internet, Fidonet, and Genie thus giving amateur astronomers access to this method.

How to Use This Method

Detailed instructions for the use of astromicroscopy are found in the paper dated May 22, 1992 (Part II of this Guide).  Some additional suggestions are found in the final report of February 22, 1994.

What Results May Be Expected

If this method is used with care and the instructions are followed explicitly, the following results may be expected:

  • With the use of a slide projector, sections of the sky of atlas-type size reveal sky objects including galaxies to the 12th and 15th magnitudes, nebulae of all sorts, a host of double stars, and objects that are not recorded on Megastar or Uranometria  sources.
  • Using the microscope, object magnifications may be made easily up to 500X, which exceeds considerably the magnification limits of ordinary telescopes.
  • The development of  skills as both an astrophotographer and photomicrographer.
  • An enhanced astronomical education..
  • Color slide astrophotos comparable to those in Part III.

  • [Home page] [Observer article] [Guide to Astromicroscopy]
    [Southern hemisphere objects] [The South Pole]

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