'Description of a Singular Appearance seen in the Sun', 1859.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Illustrated plate based on observations by the British astronomer Richard Christopher Carrington (1826-1875), showing a group of sunspots, taken from 'Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society', 1861. Carrington's major contribution to astronomy was his work concerning sunspots. Inspired by the discovery by Heinrich Schwabe in 1843 of the sunspot cycle, Carrington made detailed observations and drawings of the positions of sunspots between 1853 and 1861. On 1st September 1859 in the course of these observations, he noticed two areas in the middle of a sunspot group grow rapidly brighter (points A and B in the sketch), before dimming and disappearing at points C and D. This was the first recorded observation of a solar flare.