IntroductionSuperCOSMOS is an advanced photographic plate digitising machine. Part of its programme is to systematically digitise sky survey plates taken with the UK Schmidt telescope (UKST), the ESO Schmidt, and the Palomar Schmidt, and to make the data publicly available. (The various different sky survey plate collections are summarised here. Details of the machine, its programme, and how to apply for a plate to be scanned can be found here.)
Other digitised sky survey material is available, but the SuperCOSMOS Sky Surveys should be particularly valuable to astronomers for several reasons:
SKY AVAILABILITY. The whole sky is now available in three colours: blue red (two epochs) and near infra-red. To view the fields on-line go to Sky coverage.
STYLE OF ACCESS. There are four ways to access the SuperCOSMOS data.
DATA FORMAT RETURNED. If you specify that you want to see a GIF image you will see your piece of sky returned on the web page, but by default we just return the files for you to use with your own software. The images have 0.7 arcsec pixels and are returned in FITS format with a built-in World Co-ordinate System (WCS). The FITS file automatically contains FITS tables listing the associated object catalogues, and if your image viewer is smart enough (like GAIA) you can browse them simultaneously. However you can also download the catalogue separately.
The object catalogues can be returned either as FITS tables, ASCII lists, or tab-separated lists. Various database query and analysis packages (e.g. CURSA) can understand all of these formats. The parameters returned include the obvious things like RA, Dec, magnitude, colour, proper motion, but also some less obvious but often useful things like ellipticity, image area, quality and blend flags, and so on.
More detail on all these issues can be found in the various sections in the bar to the left, especially under Documentation.
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