The eclipse of the sun, 1860.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
'Facsimile of the two photographs obtained during the totality.', taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. The images show solar prominences observed around the Moon's disc. Total eclipses are the best time for visual observation of several features of the Sun, such as prominences, temporary clouds of gas in the Sun's atmosphere, as the overall brightnes of the Sun usually makes them imposible to see at visible wavelengths. The corona, the very hot outer atmosphere of the Sun is also best seen at the point of totality in an eclipse. 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.