Total solar eclipse over North Carolina 1900
Who knew? This recording of a May 28, 1900 total solar eclipse is believed to be the first surviving astronomical film in the world. The clip, captured by the British magician and film maker John Nevil Maskelyne, was recently rediscovered in the archive of the Royal Astronomical Society. Maskelyne accompanied the British Astronomical Association’s (BAA) expedition to Wadesboro, North Carolina, and set up his specialty camera to capture the minute-and-a-half of totality. The result is truly impressive for the time given that the oldest surviving film of any kind harkens from 1888, just 12 years prior.
Members of British Astronomical Association expedition to Wadesboro, NC ready their telescopes and cameras for the eclipse. Is Maskelyne in this photo? He would have been 60 at the time. UNC-Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, UNC Wilson Library
Conservation experts at the British Film Institute (BFI) scanned and reworked the footage frame by frame into a 4k video to include in their Victorian film collection. It was not Maskelyne’s first attempt at recording an eclipse. He successfully filmed the January 1898 eclipse in India, but the footage was stolen during the ...