The image above is a color composite I created combining 6 hand drawn black and white images, each by a different astronomer, of a total solar eclipse which occurred on July 18th 1860. Although photography already existed at the time of this eclipse it was nowhere near precise enough to make truly useful astronomical observations. The astronomers who recorded it continued on with the method of hand drawing observations, which they’d employed long before the invention of the telescope, let alone the upstart photography. This particular eclipse was special in that the drawings are now thought to be the first known representations of a coronal mass ejection. See below for the original images, which are beautiful in their own right, and a bit more info.

09.10. filed under: science. space.


Jayzus, where do you even find all this koolniss? What do you do, smoke weed and wander in the Strand? (I know I would if I could).

posted on 09.10 at 08:04 PM.


I found your composite image to be a fascinating entity unto itself! What a wonderful idea. I found myself moving back & forth between the composite & the single images. As a singular artifact it certainly is a powerful image. (Sort of..solo/solar) Thanks.  Allan

posted on 09.10 at 08:28 PM.


The composite is beautiful. I’d love a print of it.

I used to fascinated by artists impressions (kind of a false name, I assume the artist had never laid eyes on them either) of the surfaces of other planets and moons when I was a kid.
I think there’s still probably plenty of scope for illustrating the unknowns in our universe, even if it has gone slightly out of fashion. Quasars, super-planets, the depths of Europa’s seas.

Also: My parents took me to see William Parsons’ telescope in Birr when I was young. It’s not operational but still impressive. I must go back and take a few photographs now you’ve reminded me of it. (I’d draw it if I could!)

posted on 09.11 at 04:41 AMPierce


@Tom: No, more often than not I find things the ol’ fashioned way, accidentally. As for your hypothesis above, though I do still wander the Strand occasionally (work about 4 blocks from there) I do so with my wits 100% about me. Wouldn’t ever get anything done otherwise.

@Allan. Thank you. I saw your Atlas Vignette print at StungEye recently (assuming you are the same Allan). Was right up my street.

@Pierce: Yeah, there is still a lot of visualization happening (if you count the artificial coloring of images, a ton) but it’s mostly of things which we can not see yet or only intuit to exist. I was referring more to the application of the subjective to direct observational astronomy.

The funny think is that most current illustrations of the unknown, with all the hi-res pixely goodness you can pack into a frame, often come across as less mysterious and evocative to me because they are made to look “photo realistic.” I don’t know, guess I’m just being fickle.

Let us know when you get those photos shot. Like to see that myself.

posted on 09.11 at 08:09 AMjmorrison


Brilliant posting… and I am pretty certain that you do not smoke weed and wander the Strand, romantic as the thought of doing that all day may be.. Really wonderful though.  Thank you.

posted on 09.11 at 09:41 AM.


Jaime sez: “The funny think is that most current illustrations of the unknown, with all the hi-res pixely goodness you can pack into a frame, often come across as less mysterious and evocative to me because they are made to look “photo realistic.” I don’t know, guess I’m just being fickle.”

No, I agree. Digital hyperrealism was impressive circa Terminator/Jurassic Park but now we’re jaded with it, and keep coming back to the more visceral charm of the handmade. In the end you can fake everything but honest sweat. There’s at least one firm round here in Western North Carolina that prints old-skool posters using pretty much the same techniques as Ben Franklin would.

p.s. those drawings of the Orion Nebula are sorta eerie, especially the cubist one on the right. Rotate it 90 degrees counterclockwise and it looks like a pug dog.

posted on 09.11 at 07:09 PM.


I love old science books, because you can literally ‘feel’ he old geezers bent over their papers and doing graphs themselves ...

Thanks for your work.

posted on 09.13 at 04:36 AMorangeguru


This illustration looks incredibly similar to the composite picture of the sun as seen by different instruments of the SoHo satellite that I am using as icon on Blogger and LiveJournal (and as wallpaper on my computer)...

posted on 09.13 at 05:04 AMSpacedlaw


while being enchanted by your composition, before reading what it was all about, i saw an enigmatic, beautiful art work.
and what is an “artistic interpretation in representation of the universe” - if not a work of art?
your post, as well as your reproduction and the other images was touching my own questions and wonders about what is art, where does representation of our universe (specially old maps, and extremely accurate modern visual of small particles or complex process) is merely a representation? and when and why one could consider it as art?

posted on 09.13 at 05:49 PMmoon

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