21 March – 21 June 2016 in Florence, Rome, Naples, Palermo, Padua

The eclipse expedition

THE ECLIPSE EXPEDITION
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Which has cost us close upon £ 20,000, without reckoning the cost of getting the Pysche off the rock upon which the astronomers stranded her, has been a failure, or next to it. The reports which have come to hand so far are singularly disappointing, and where they are precise they contradict each other pointblank. Mr. Perry could see very little at San Fernando except a white gleam of light which he believes to be the Corona, and Venus glittering in her peerless beauty alone at mid-day. But even Mr Perry was better off than Mr Huggins and Mr Tyndall, at Oran, for they could see nothing at all. Dense clouds formed about twenty minutes before the eclipse reached its highest point, and did not break up till ten minutes afterwards. Lord Lindsay was best off at Cadiz. He took a couple of beautiful photographs of the Corona, and photographed the forks of flame, or prominences as they are called, all round and this, as far as we can see at present, is the only tangible result which any of the Astronomers will be able to show for their money, and these, as it happens, were obtained by an amateur who took out a splendid telescope at his own expense – a telling point for Mr Lowe to make with the Royal Society when he is asked to “fork out” £ 10,000 or £ 12,00 again to assist astronomy. Of the Sicilian expedition we have as yet heard nothing, except in a telegram of half-a-dozen lines from Mr Norman Lockyer. His observations, like those of the rest, were interfered with by the clouds. But in spite of these he has, he says, secured “substantial results.” What these are we shall know in time. At present all Mr Lockyer tells us is that “the American observations of last year upon the Corona are confirmed.” Cut recollecting that Mr. Norman Lockyer was one of the first English Astronomers to pronounce these observations bizarre and puzzling to the last degree, that they contradicted all the previous observations of European Astronomers, pronounced the Corona to be nothing more nor less than a permanent solar aurora, and cut the ground from under the feet of all the Astronomers of the East by denying that the light-of the corona is polarised, this conclusion of Mr Lockyer’s is one which is even more embarassing to science than that of the Yankees. To add to the complexity of the case, too, we see Mr Perry says the polarisation was stronger on the Corona than on either the moon’s surface or on the cloudy sky. Which version are we to take ? – Bristol Times and Mirror

Monmouthshire Merlin, 1871

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