Magicians are known for making things disappear, but when the sun vanished from the sky on May 28, 1900, it happened not through a sleight of hand, but because of a solar eclipse.
There was magic in the air that day after all — movie magic. Nevil Maskelyne, a performing magician who also happened to be a pioneering filmmaker, preserved the spectacular event — as the moon passed between Earth and the sun — on celluloid, from a location in North Carolina.
More than a century later, Maskelyne’s film of the eclipse has been digitally scanned and restored in a collaboration between the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the British Film Institute (BFI), and is free to view online. The film, titled “Solar Eclipse,” is thought to be the world’s oldest surviving astronomical film, Joshua Nall, chair of the RAS Astronomical Heritage Committee, said in a statement.