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Programmer: Bill Kramer
Last update: April 17 2015

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Eclipses of the 1800s

The 1800s were the dawn of eclipse chasing. A collision of technology, science, and the ability to travel around the world brought about a flurry of activity related to eclipses. At the dawn of the century knowledge of the sun was severely limited to studies of the photosphere and sunspots. The corona was a complete mystery with the accepted theory being that it was either an atmospheric effect (optical illusion) or light scattering caused by an atmosphere on the moon. It was not considered part of the sun. Early in the 1800s the chromosphere was not yet discovered and the spectrograph had not yet been applied to study the nature of light.

Reports of past total solar eclipses were limited and not of much use. Descriptions of the corona varied based on the observer. It was not until about half way into the century that it was absolutely determined that the corona, prominences, and chromosphere visible during a total solar eclipse were components of the sun. Suddenly eclipses of the sun became quite interesting to scientists.

At the same time the invention of spectral science (the study of light passed through a prism) as it relates to matter (different types of matter create or absorb different light) had been created. Spectral studies of solar eclipses revealed new elements and pushed scientific curiosity further. The result was a series of well studied solar eclipses during the latter part of the 19th century that continued into the next century.



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