The interest of photography in astronomy was understood from the beginning. The daguerreotype, invented in 1839, was largely supported by François ARAGO (1786-1853), French astronomer and statesman, he was then director of observations at the Observatoire de Paris and a member of the Academy of Sciences. He immediately saw the potential of photography in the field of science, making it possible to record observations and then exploit them. His stance in favor of the DAGUERRE process led the State to buy the patent and offer it to the world.
In March of the following year, the Anglo-American John William DRAPER (1811-1882) made one of the first photographs of the Moon, and probably the first that showed so much detail. Draper is also recognized as the first astrophotographer. The first stellar photograph was made 10 years later, in 1850, at Harvard University, on the initiative of William Cranch BOND (1789-1859), George Phillips BOND (1825-1865) and John Adams WHIPPLE ( 1822-1891). The technique then limited shooting, especially because of the necessarily long exposure times. It was then necessary to compensate for the rotational movement of the Earth by shifting the photosensitive medium. The duration of exposure was a real challenge at the beginning of astrophotography. It later became an asset, making it possible to record luminous emanations that are very weak and imperceptible to the human eye, even equipped with telescopes.
Many astronomers subsequently turned photography into the service of science. We can mention the French Maurice LOEWY (1833-1907), Pierre Henri PUISEUX (1855-1928) and Jules JANSSEN (1824-1907), who contributed to the development of astrophotography. The first two are famous for their photographs of the Moon, while Jules JANSSEN made comet photographs and the surface of the Sun. At the same time the American Sherburne Wesley BURNHAM (1838-1921) mapped the surfaces of Mars and the Moon.
In 1887 a project of Carte du Ciel was born. It was at the instigation of the Henry brothers, famous French astronomers, that the director of the Paris Observatory: Ernest Amédée MOUCHEZ (1821-1892) launched this long-term project. The Paris Observatory managed to federate 17 other world observatories around this project. The photographic map was to identify the stars of the sky, more than 10 million. Each observatory covered by its observations a small part of the sky. The catalog was essentially completed in 1958.