A STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ACCURACY OF THE DIGITIZED MAGNITUDES OF PHOTOMETRIC PLATES ON THE TIMESCALE OF DECADES WITH AN APPLICATION TO THE CENTURY-LONG LIGHT CURVE OF KIC 8462852Authors:Hippke et alAbstract:We present a statistical analysis of the accuracy of the digitized magnitudes of photometric plates on the timescale of decades. In our examination of archival Johnson B photometry from the Harvard DASCH archive, we find a median rms scatter of light curves of the order of 0.15 mag over the range B ~ 9–17 for all calibrations. Slight underlying systematics (trends or flux discontinuities) are on a level of lesssim0.2 mag per century (1889–1990) for the majority of constant stars. These historic data can be unambiguously used for processes that happen on scales of magnitudes, and need to be carefully examined in cases approaching the noise floor. The characterization of these limits in photometric stability may guide future studies in their use of plate archives. We explain these limitations for the example case of KIC 8462852, which has been claimed to dim by 0.16 mag per century, and show that this trend cannot be considered as significant.