Someone should make a game about: The Palomar Observatory Sky Survey

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Hello, and welcome to our new series which picks out interesting things that we’d love someone to make a game about. This isn’t a chance for us to pretend we’re game designers, more an opportunity to celebrate the range of subjects games can tackle and the sorts of things that seem filled with glorious gamey promise.

For years, the night sky could be found arranged neatly in a bunch of folders stacked in a huge system of filing cabinets in research department libraries around the world. The night sky captured as a set of images called the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey, or POSS for short.

The POSS is a series of almost 2000 photographic plates of the stars, taken on the 48-inch Schmidt telescope at Palomar Observatory, largely over the course of the 1950s. The first photographic plate was exposed in November 1949 and the last in December 1958. Each 14-inch plate shows an area of the sky “that looks about as big as your fully outstretched hand held at arm’s length,” explains the astronomer Mike Brown, writing about POSS with obvious fondness in his book, How I Killed Pluto – and Why it had it Coming. (Amongst other things, Brown discovered Eris, a Kuiper Belt object that ultimately led to Pluto being reclassified as a dwarf planet. His book is an absolute delight.)

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