Gaze in awe at the first ever movie of a solar eclipse from recording long thought lost forever

Sadly no HD video back in 1900 but restoration has worked wonders

total_solar_eclipse
Image credit: BFI

Video The first ever film of a solar eclipse, created in 1900 and once thought lost forever, has been found and restored by the British Film Institute and the UK's Royal Astronomical Society.

Julius Berkowski was the first man to take a decent picture of a total eclipse in 1851 at the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia – an area now known as Kaliningrad, Russia. In those days, photography was tedious and Berkowski had to figure out how to record the event using a small refracting telescope and imprinting the image onto a copper plate.

Technology improved, however. By 1900, people could capture short films by stringing images together. Nevil Maskelyne, a magician-turned-filmmaker, snapped this first film of a total solar eclipse while on an expedition to North Carolina on 28 May 1900.

It's not the first time he had embarked on such a mission. Two years earlier in 1898, Maskelyne travelled all the way India to catch a total solar eclipse and managed to take photographs. Unfortunately, they were stolen on his journey home back to England, but he was lucky the second time round.

Now, the images have been rediscovered hidden among the Royal Astronomical Society's archives. It is believed to be the only film by Maskelyne that has managed to survive the times.

You can watch it here.

Youtube Video

"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," said Mike Cruise, president of the 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." ®




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