Charting the sky is an integral part of all human cultures, and it was the desire of the British Empire to record the transit of Venus in 1769 that brought Captain Cook and his sailors to the southern hemisphere. The first English observatory in Australia was established at Dawes Point in Sydney, and the first known photographs through a telescope in this country were taken in pursuit of the 1874 transit of Venus.
In 1887 the first International Astrophotographic Congress was convened in Paris. Fifty-six representatives from nineteen nations and colonies, including Australia’s Henry Chamberlain Russell, agreed to contribute towards the first photographic star atlas (Carte du Ciel). This mammoth undertaking made use of both Sydney and Melbourne observatories from 1892 onwards.
James Short was an astronomical photographer employed by the Sydney Observatory. Appointed in 1890 he worked with Henry Chamberlain Russell on the international mapping of the stars project, the Carte du Ciel. From 1898 to 1930 he operated the Red Hill Observatory in Pennant Hills outside Sydney.
Total solar eclipse c.1890-1922 is on display with over 650 historical and modern works until 11 October in ‘The Photograph and Australia’ exhibition.