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Watch the oldest surviving film of a total solar eclipse

The video was captured nearly 120 years ago by British magician-turned-filmmaker Nevil Maskelyne

BY LISA GROSSMAN at ScienceNews.org

This is the oldest surviving video of a total solar eclipse.

The grainy marvel was taken nearly 120 years ago on May 28, 1900, by a British magician-turned-filmmaker named Nevil Maskelyne, according to a report on May 30 from the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Film Institute in London.  The original film fragment, captured on a British Astronomical Association expedition to North Carolina, was scanned and recently restored by conservation experts at the BFI National Archive.

Maskelyne developed a special telescope adapter for his camera to film the eclipse without frying his equipment. The 1900 eclipse was actually his second attempt. His first, an eclipse in India in 1898, was successful, but his film canister was stolen on the trip back to England.

“This is a wonderful archival discovery,” curator Joshua Nall of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge, England said in a statement. “It is a really striking record of both early cinema and late Victorian eclipse observing.”

Other observers of the same eclipse measured the temperature of the sun’s corona, or its wispy outer atmosphere, and the temperature and pressure of the air as the eclipse swept by.

LIGHT AND DARK This video of a 1900 total solar eclipse was filmed in North Carolina using a special telescope adapter. The clip is the oldest surviving video of a total solar eclipse ever taken.



Royal Astronomical Society. First ever solar eclipse film brought back to life. May 30, 2019.

Further Reading

L. Grossman. 100 years ago, an eclipse proved Einstein right. Today, black holes do too — for now. Science News Online, May 29, 2019.

L. Grossman. Astronomers scrutinized last year’s eclipse. Here’s what they’ve learned. Science News Online, May 29, 2018.

L. Grossman. Why is this year’s solar eclipse such a big deal for scientists? Science News Online, August 11, 2017.