Stages of a solar eclipse, 1847.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate taken from 'Illustrated London News', depicting an annular solar eclipse which occurred in 1847. Over Britain, the predicted appearance of the sun is shown before and after total obscurity. Solar eclipses have always inspired fascination, awe, and indeed terror in ancient times. In the 19th century, expeditions were dispatched around the world to make scientific observations of eclipses, and today a dedicated band of 'eclipse tourists' is prepared to travel to almost any location where the phenomena can be experienced.