Eclipse Monday: Celestial Observances

Today marks the first total solar eclipse in 38 years. Everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse.

From our History of Science book collection we have examples of 17th-19th century astronomers observing solar and lunar eclipses to test scientific theories and gain knowledge about the sun and our planet. James Ferguson, a Scottish self-taught astronomer published the 1756 bestseller Astronomy Explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles and Made Easy for Those Who Have Not Studied Mathematics and included a chapter “Of Eclipses: their number and periods. A large catalogue of ancient and modern eclipses” and feature these beautiful plates:

phases of solar and lunar eclipses

Plate XI. Solar and Lunar eclipses. 1803.

The Geometrical Construction of Solar and Lunar Eclipses

Plate XII. The Geometrical Construction of Solar and Lunar Eclipses. 1803.

From a more recent book, we have James Turrell’s Eclipse published in 2000 to commemorate the total solar eclipse of August 11, 1999 and Turrell’s creation of a perceptual space: The Elliptic Ecliptic, a Sky Space built on a hillside facing St. Michael’s Mount, in Cornwall, England. The book includes this beautiful aquatint:

aquatint solar eclipse print

Aquatint response print. James Turrell’s Eclipse. 2000

Today, we’ll be (safely) looking to the skies!

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