Chapter 03.docx

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Department
Aboriginal Studies
Course
ABS201Y1
Professor
James Pesando
Semester
Winter

Description
Chapter 03 Warren De La Rue was another amateur astronomer and it was him who was the man responsible for the solar photography at the Kew Observatory. He took the solar camera that he financed to Rivabellosa in Spain to observe this eclipse. This was the first time anyone had ever attempted to take a picture of the fully eclipsed Sun. They had no idea whether they could do it. In fact, they thought they would probably fail. Warren De La Rue reasoned that the full Moon was probably about the same brightness as the solar atmosphere and so made test shots with his camera to see if it would work, and he registered not a single thing on the photographic plate. But he still went and took the chance. They had to construct a makeshift observatory out of wood and covered it in tarpaulin to make a dark room. Over this they had to constantly throw buckets of water, because it is so hot that the photographic film simply fogged if they did not keep everything cool, and then they had to prime it, expose it, and develop it rapidly. I am very pleased to say they got the picture. It sits today in the Library of the Royal Astronomical Society. This is the first image ever taken of the solar atmosphere, and its important feature was a solar flare launching a big eruption of gas into space, like we can see on the SOHO images. The track of the eclipse passed from the East Coast of America, across the Atlantic, across Spain, across the Mediterranean, and down into Africa. It is interesting when you compare the descriptions of the solar atmosphere from observers at all these locations. On the Eastern seaboard of the States, an observer saw a bright flash that he could not be certain was real or not. Suddenly there was a boom, which was the flare gone. Then, as it comes across Spain, people saw this bubble opening up to become a tulip shape and moving off into space. The trouble is nobody knew really what they should be looking for in the solar atmosphere. They did not know if they could believe these stories of what was seen, and the fact that different observers saw different things. They were not sure they were all seeing the same thing. The photograph was a double-edged sword in a way, because it said here's a photograph, here is something, in black and white, literally, that we can all agree on, but of course it did not take into account the fact that this structure changed and moved, and so they did not recognise the true dynamism of the solar atmosphere. Also, importantly, they did not link this up with a similar event to the bright light that Carrington saw. Our story takes a little bit of a leap here, because Carrington didn't live long enough to pursue this research. What seemed to do for Carrington in fact was that he was a gentleman of leisure, had a very healthy living and income from his father's brewery in Brentford, but his father died prematurely and Carrington had to take over the family business. Working for a living seemed to come as quite a shock to the system for Carrington, but I do have some sympathy for him. He had begun an unbelievably punishing regime of scientific research. First, he catalogued stars, and he then also started cataloguing the sunspots, as we have talked about, and it was not just a case of making sketches and doing a few timings. He then had to reduce all his measurements into hard numbers that everybody could agree on, because he realised that he was seeing the sunspots as seen on a globe and he was projecting those onto a flat surface, so he had to make corrections and allowances, and he had to do all of this work by hand. So for every day that he observed, he had days' worth of mathematics to then do. Essentially what happened to Carrington is that in trying to run the family brewery and trying to keep up his scientific research resulted in him having a nervous breakdown and he abandoned everything. He sold the brewery, he sold his observatory, and he tried to retire. He then made the most disastrous marriage you can possibly imagine. I had always wondered why Carrington seems to just disappear from history. You read about this amazing astronomer whose proposal to the Royal Society reads like a 'Who's Who' of Victorian astronomy. He was in the top echelons of science, and yet, you hardly ever hear about him today. After a little bit of digging, you find that this marriage resulted - I am not kidding - in scandal beyond belief. In fact, I joked at the very beginning of wanting to write this book, I said, 'I know what the title is: it is 'Sex, Drugs and Solar Flares'! Obviously, I will not air Carrington's troubles in public, but in the spirit of fair and complete journalism, I researched it and put it all in the book! Interestingly enough, in the year that Carrington dies, under suspicious circumstances, Walter Maunder was just taking a job at the Greenwich Observatory. Walter Maunder was one of the first to be employed in an open and fair system based on ability and not the old-boy network, and this drove George Airy absolutely mad! The Astronomer Royal could not stand Walter Maunder and seems to have terrified him. Maunder was carrying two vials of photographic developing fluid one day through the Observatory,
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