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Sunday, August 20, 2017


Happy Total (for those of you in the Path of Totality) Solar Eclipse Day!

Ever wonder how people depicted a solar eclipse before modern photography? The Princeton Art Museum is currently featuring an exhibit of paintings by Howard Russell Butler (1856-1934). Butler was a graduate of Princeton University’s first School of Science. He was also a portrait and landscape painter who founded the American Fine Arts Society.

Left Panel
In 1918 Butler, who had already established himself as a renowned painter of transient phenomena such as sunsets, was invited to accompany the United States Naval Observatory Eclipse Team to Salem, Oregon. At a time when photography was not yet sophisticated enough to capture the nuances of a solar eclipse, Butler’s painting, completed from memory and notes within hours of observing the eclipse, provided an account that astronomers heralded for its scientific accuracy.

Center panel with image of Bailey's Bead
In 1925 the American Museum of Natural History commissioned a triptych for an astronomy hall Butler had designed. The hall was never built, but the triptych was later mounted over the entrance to the Hayden Planetarium. The smaller version pictured above was given by Butler’s son to Princeton University in 1958. The left panel is the solar eclipse from the 1918 expedition. The middle panel is the 1923 solar eclipse in Lompoc, California, which captures what is known as a Bailey's Bead, a bead of sunlight that is glimpsed briefly amid the craggy topography of the moon. The panel on the right is the solar eclipse of 1925 in Connecticut.

Right panel


Angela Adams said...

The moon and the sun have some stories to tell (smile!).


They sure do, Angela! Thanks for stopping by.

Vamp Writer said...

Of course, as the Moon slowly recedes from it's orbit around the Earth...I forget how very little it moves away each year...there will be a little bit more of the Sun visible during each subsequent eclipse. If a painter of the 13th Century had done similar paintings, and they were still available, there might have been less corona showing. I also wonder how much the Sun will swell in subsequent millennia due to it's fuel conversion from Hydrogen to Helium. In a few million years the combined result may be that whatever comes after us might not be able to see all that much difference when the Moon is between Earth and the Sun or is not. Of course that assumes that the Moon hasn't left orbit to explore the Galaxy by then. A sad day for "Romance" authors, even those of the Paranormal-Romance genre. (-:


Makes me glad we won't be around to see that, Vamp Writer. ;-)