Solar Physics

, Volume 288, Issue 1, pp 117–139 | Cite as

The Greenwich Photo-heliographic Results (1874 – 1976): Summary of the Observations, Applications, Datasets, Definitions and Errors

  • D. M. WillisEmail author
  • H. E. Coffey
  • R. Henwood
  • E. H. Erwin
  • D. V. Hoyt
  • M. N. Wild
  • W. F. Denig


The measurements of sunspot positions and areas that were published initially by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and subsequently by the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO), as the Greenwich Photo-heliographic Results (GPR), 1874 – 1976, exist in both printed and digital forms. These printed and digital sunspot datasets have been archived in various libraries and data centres. Unfortunately, however, typographic, systematic and isolated errors can be found in the various datasets. The purpose of the present paper is to begin the task of identifying and correcting these errors. In particular, the intention is to provide in one foundational paper all the necessary background information on the original solar observations, their various applications in scientific research, the format of the different digital datasets, the necessary definitions of the quantities measured, and the initial identification of errors in both the printed publications and the digital datasets. Two companion papers address the question of specific identifiable errors; namely, typographic errors in the printed publications, and both isolated and systematic errors in the digital datasets. The existence of two independently prepared digital datasets, which both contain information on sunspot positions and areas, makes it possible to outline a preliminary strategy for the development of an even more accurate digital dataset. Further work is in progress to generate an extremely reliable sunspot digital dataset, based on the programme of solar observations supported for more than a century by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and the Royal Greenwich Observatory. This improved dataset should be of value in many future scientific investigations.


Greenwich photo-heliographic results Positions and areas of sunspots and faculae Solar observations Printed publications Digital datasets Scientific applications Identifiable errors Correcting the datasets 



The authors thank J.H. Allen, T. Baranyi, S. Foster, R.A. Harrison, P.D. Hingley (Deceased), S.F. James, S.A. Matthews, A.J. Perkins, F.R. Stephenson, J.M. Vaquero, C. Vincent, and F. Ward for much valuable advice, assistance and encouragement during the preparation of this paper. They are also greatly indebted to all those scientists and curators whose names are listed in Section B.5 of Appendix B. The authors are grateful to a referee for suggesting significant improvements to the presentation of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. M. Willis
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • H. E. Coffey
    • 3
  • R. Henwood
    • 4
  • E. H. Erwin
    • 3
  • D. V. Hoyt
    • 5
  • M. N. Wild
    • 4
  • W. F. Denig
    • 3
  1. 1.Space Physics DivisionRutherford Appleton LaboratoryDidcotUK
  2. 2.Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, Department of PhysicsUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  3. 3.NOAA National Geophysical Data CenterBoulderUSA
  4. 4.UK Solar System Data CentreRutherford Appleton LaboratoryDidcotUK
  5. 5.Berkeley SpringsUSA

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