Bailey’s Beads or Tear Drops of York May 15th 1836
An annular eclipse of the Sun was visible on May 15th 1836 from a large part of Scotland and the very north of England. One of the astronomers who went to watch the eclipse was Francis Bailey who went to Inch Bonney in Roxburghshire and his description of what he saw would lead to a term familiar to everyone who watches eclipses of the Sun, namely The Baileys Beads, this is when light is seen to pass through mountain ranges around the edge of the Moon. However things could have been different….In York at the York Observatory members of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society also saw the eclipse and described it as looking like tear drops. So what happened?
It was very simple really Francis Bailey who had helped to found the Royal Astronomical Society sent in a report describing what he saw, the people in York did not. What we call today Baileys Beads could have been the ‘Tear Drops from York’ Another case of he who hesitates is lost!!
An annular eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun but is a little bit further from the Earth and cannot therefore cover the entire disc of the Sun, it blocks out much of the sunlight but leaves a yellow ring in the sky. The word annular comes from the Latin word ‘annulus’ meaning ring of fire.