Penumbral Eclipse of the Heart

by: Amanda Pike

A penumbral lunar eclipse took place earlier this morning, the last of four eclipses observed this year. Unfortunately, here in Princeton, the eclipse was not visible since it began after moonset. However, there is still an opportunity to observe an eclipse at the Mudd Library!

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The Princeton University Archives houses the Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection, which includes a series specifically on astronomical expeditions from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century. This collection documents the work of various scientific expeditions conducted under the aegis of Princeton University, though the history of these expeditions is fragmentary. From the information within the collection, it appears that the earliest such enterprises were astronomical, as the college’s professor Stephen Alexander journeyed to Georgia in 1834 to observe an eclipse of the sun. While no notice of this has been found in the trustees’ minutes of the time, at least two of three subsequent eclipse expeditions (in 1854, 1860, and 1869) were official college investigations, duly authorized and funded by the trustees. Alexander’s successor, Professor C. A. Young, led his own eclipse expeditions to Colorado in 1878, to Russia in 1887, and to North Carolina in 1900. An 1882 journey to observe the transit of Venus is, so far, the only other identified astronomic expedition of the 19th century.

The images below document a solar eclipse observed in Wadesboro, North Carolina in 1900, as well as the equipment used to capture the images.

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Further information on the Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection can be found using the collection’s finding aid online.