The first film of a total solar eclipse has been “re-discovered,” astronomers announced Thursday.
The eclipse, which occurred on May 28, 1900, in North Carolina, was filmed by British magician turned pioneering filmmaker Nevil Maskelyne.
Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said in a statement Thursday that “it’s wonderful to see events from our scientific past brought back to life. Astronomers are always keen to embrace new technology, and our forerunners a century ago were no exception.”
The original film fragment, which belongs to the astronomical society, was “painstakingly scanned and restored” by conservation experts at the British Film Institute.
A total solar eclipse in 1900 was the first captured on film. (Photo: Royal Astronomical Society)
“These scenes of a total solar eclipse – one of the most spectacular sights in astronomy – are a captivating glimpse of Victorian science in action,” Cruise said.
The total solar eclipse of May 28, 1900, was visible from Louisiana to Virginia.
According to the astronomical society, it was not an easy feat to film. Maskelyne had to make a special telescopic adapter for his camera to capture the event. This is the only film by Maskelyne that’s known to have survived.
“This is a wonderful archival discovery: perhaps the oldest surviving astronomical film, it is a really striking record of both early cinema and late Victorian eclipse observing,” said Joshua Nall, the chair of the Royal Astronomical Society’s astronomical heritage committee.
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Folks antsy to see another total eclipse don’t have long to wait, though you’ll have to hop on a plane to South America to catch it: A total eclipse of the sun is coming to Chile and Argentina on July 2.
Specifically, the sun will disappear along a narrow track that stretches from Chile’s coast to just south of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital and largest city.
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