The Total Solar Eclipse of 1854


Editor’s note: AAS Nova is on vacation until 18 September. Normal posting will resume at that time; in the meantime, we’ll be taking this opportunity to look at a few interesting AAS journal articles that have recently been in the news or drawn attention.

Can’t get enough eclipse news? Check out this coverage of the solar eclipse of 1854! Special thanks to Tumblr blogger Nemfrog for digging this out of the archives.

These two sets of photographs both capture the annular solar eclipse that occurred on May 26, 1854, passing close to the U.S./Canada border. The photographs come from articles (linked below) published by two scientists who both watched the eclipse from the state of New York and made extensive measurements of its properties.

Stephen Alexander’s team was able to capture spectacular images demonstrating the annular eclipse during totality. William H.C. Bartlett’s team captured the eclipse during various moments from the point of first contact to that of last contact, making detailed measurements of the Sun’s position in 19 stages throughout this process.

The photographs shown here were taken just three years after the very first successful photograph of a solar eclipse was taken — this was a very new endeavor at the time!

solar eclipse 1854

Daguerrotype published by Stephen Alexander of the total solar eclipse of May 26, 1854. [Alexander 1854]

solar eclipse of 1854 2

Photographs published by William H. C. Bartlett of the total solar eclipse of May 26, 1854. [Bartlett 1854]


Stephen Alexander 1854 AJ 4 75. doi:10.1086/100439
W. H. C. Bartlett 1854 AJ 4 77. doi:10.1086/100450