© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Painting made in oil distemper and lampblack on paper by James Nasmyth (1808-1890), comparing the size of a sunspot to that of the Earth. Working from sketches made directly at his telescope, he used his considerable artistic skill to produce this 1860 portrayal of the Sun. A succesful industrialist and engineer, Nasmyth made extensive solar observations after he retired from busines in Manchester and moved to a new home near Hawkshurst in Kent. Through his observations Nasmyth discovered fine scale solar features, which he called 'willow-leaf-shaped objects', a detail that is clearly evident in this painting. Difficult to view, their existence was disputed for many years; these features are now known as solar granulation.