Thursday 4 March 2021

Eclipse of the Moon seen through a Cooke in Brighton in 1856


Eclipse of the Moon seen through a Cooke in Brighton in 1856

Brighton Gazette Thursday 16th October 1856


Perhaps the following description of the beautiful lunar eclipse that took place on Monday, as seen from Howell’s observatory, at Hove, may not be uninteresting to some of your readers.

The moon was shinning with intense brightness over the sea, in a cloudless sky, S. E by S., and at an elevation of about 45 degrees, when, punctual to the predicted time, 9h. 21m., a slight diminution of light was evident on the eastern limb of our satellite, like a very faint wash of Indian ink, and after little a while she advanced in her easterly course, dipping into the earth’s shadow, this latter appeared like a small dent in the moon’s side, gradually growing deeper and wider, until a large piece seemed to have been actually eaten away. At this time the indented part could not he distinguished from the surrounding ebon sky, but about half an hour from the commencement, carefully looking through Howell’s equatorial for the obscured portion, I could plainly distinguish it, clearly defined by a sharp edge and of a delicate roseate hue, and which, on my drawing their attention to it, was also seen by Captain Shay and the other gentleman present. As the eclipse proceeded and more of the moon’s disc became covered by the earth s umbra, the red color grew much stronger, pervading, though with unequal intensity, the whole portion of the disc on which the shadow was advancing like a smoky haze, with a very flat curved outline. In advance of the curved and coppery umbra a variable band of bluish tint gradually came into view, sometimes very light, which continued until the period of deepest immersion (l1h. 54m.), when a very small portion of the moon’s upper limb remained visible, and of a yellowish green colour. For a quarter of an hour the moon remained almost entirely buried in the earth’s shadow, but still visible, the larger portion being of coppery glow, but towards the upper limb dissolving into orange, this again into blue, and the very small segment at the top into yellowish green. The appearance of the moon was now very peculiar, like a transparent body crossed by coloured zones, parallel to our horizon.

As time proceeded, the moon was seen slowly rising above the shadow (at one time looking like a crescent with its horns turned downward), and as more of the illumined surface came into view the colours gradually faded away, in reverse order, until the finally disappeared at 27 minutes after midnight, at the south-west edge of the disc, the obscuration having lasted just three hours six minutes. The obscuration of the moon made a very perceptible difference to the brilliancy of Jupiter, situated about to the west, and also to that of the stars which shone brightly all around, and two small ones within 15 degrees of the Moon itself. For a short time after eleven o’clock few clouds passed over the moon, and then the sky remained clear again to the end.

A total eclipse of the moon occurred some years ago, when, contrary to the expectation of several of us who were observing it, the moon’s disc remained visible as an ill-defined circle of coppery red, even when completely buried in the earth’s shadow. Remembering this made me desirous of watching the eclipse of last night, to see whether any similar phenomena would be displayed during a partial obscuration, and which I expected, because the eclipse was so nearly total. The appearances presented last night could be seen with the naked eye; but through the telescope we could also see the whole surface of the moon, and plainly distinguish the various spots, lines, and circular ranges of mountains so well known to astronomers.

The cause of the singular and beautiful appearances witnessed by last night was the refraction and decomposition of the sun’s light in passing through the earth’s atmosphere; but those desirous of investigating the subject will find it fully explained, on mathematical principles, in Herschell’s Outlines of Astronomy, sections 421, 422, 423, and 425. BARCLAY PHILLIPS. 75, Lansdowne Place, Brighton,

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