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June 3, 2019

First moving picture of a solar eclipse — captured in 1900

From the Guardian:

The first moving picture of a solar eclipse (above), captured by a British magician-turned-film-maker more than a century ago, has been rediscovered in the archive of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The shaky footage, recorded by John Nevil Maskelyne using a specially-adapted camera, shows the moon passing in front of the sun while he was on a British Astronomical Association expedition to North Carolina in the U.S.

Conservation experts at the British Film Institute (BFI) scanned, reassembled, and retimed the footage, frame by frame, and have now released it in 4K as part of their Victorian film collection.

The pictures come from Maskelyne's second attempt to record an eclipse and is the only footage of his that is known to have survived.

His first go at recording an eclipse in India in 1898 was successful, but the film was stolen on his journey home.

Maskelyne, who co-ran the Egyptian Hall magic theatre in London's Piccadilly, wrote several books on the art.

He became one of the world's first hackers when he hijacked Guglielmo Marconi's demonstration of the wireless in 1903 to broadcast his own message and reveal the setup's security flaws.

"Early film historians have been looking for this film for many years. Like one of his elaborate illusions, it's exciting to think that this only known surviving film by Maskelyne has reappeared now," said Bryony Dixon, BFI silent film curator.

"These scenes of a total solar eclipse — one of the most spectacular sights in astronomy — are a captivating glimpse of Victorian science in action," said professor Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society.

June 3, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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