Oldest surviving astronomical film reanimated to show total solar eclipse
The earliest moving picture of the total solar eclipse that occurred nearly 120 years ago has been scanned and restored in 4K by conservation experts at the British Film Institute National Archive. The original film fragment was taken by filmmaker Nevil Maskelyne on May 28, 1900 in North Carolina, says a report.
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) head Mike Cruise said, “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 and Maskelyne had to make a special telescopic adapter for his camera to capture the event. On that day, the moon momentarily covered the sun.”
The total solar eclipse of May 28 (1900) plunged the sun into total darkness for 2 minutes and 10 seconds and was visible in New Orleans, Louisiana to Norfolk, Virginia in the United States. Maskelyne had used a special telescopic camera adapter that allowed him to capture the images without overexposure or burning the emulsion.
Chief of RAS’s astronomical heritage committee Joshua Nall said, “This is a wonderful archival discovery-perhaps the oldest surviving astronomical film. It is a really striking record of both early cinema and late Victorian eclipse observing.”
RAS says the May 28 eclipse was Maskelyne’s second attempt. His first attempt was in India in 1898, but the film can was stolen on the trip back to England.