100 Days Until Totality Blog Series: 64 Days Left – Adams’ Joy of Discovery

Astronomy is no doubt, a humbling area of study. Once the human mind is able to even slightly comprehend the vast distances, speeds, and warping of time and space, there are still many factors that interest folks in the subject. One such factor is the joy of discovery. Astronomers and observers look to the sky for the opportunity to discover something new. Not just for science, but for the sake of human curiosity.

Stargazing in the Night
Photo by J Zamudio; courtesy Yosemite National Park

When astronomer John C. Adams traveled to Denmark in July of 1851 for a total solar eclipse, he admitted he did not expect to add anything to the scientific study of eclipses. Adams had gone simply to observe something he hoped would be awe-inspiring. When the eclipse occurred on July 28th, Adams was prepared with a telescope with a 3 and ½” aperture and a dark glass to protect from the light of the sun. Upon the moment of totality, he recounts a moment of confusion when he could look up to the sky and safely observe the sun without aid. He continues to describe the event in detail with a wide range of emotions, from startled with the rapid change of the sky, to lonely in the dark of totality, and impressed by the stunning corona of the sun.

The first photograph of a solar eclipse taken on July 28th, 1851 by Johann Julius Friedrich Berkowski.
Wikipedia Commons

Adams recollected, “The appearance of the corona, shining with a cold unearthly light, made an impression on my mind which can never be effaced.”

Even if your eclipse plans don’t involve changing the scientific world, know that every bit of interest counts when it comes to learning about the way our universe works! Whether you are a scientist with a degree or an excited observer with a telescope, Astronomy is a welcoming activity that has just a couple requirements: keep an eye on the sky and have an open mind.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *