Saturday, August 19, 2017

First Eclipse Photo Ever Taken Has Quite the Story Behind It

Pam Wright
Published: August 19,2017

Johann Julius Friedrich Berkowski made the first solar eclipse photograph on July 28, 1851, using the daguerreotype process.
(J. Berkowski/Wikimedia Commons)
One has to wonder just how many photos of Monday's Great American Eclipse will be taken from cell phones and cameras. Times sure have changed from July 28, 1851, when a Prussian photographer captured the very first image of a solar eclipse.
Johann Julius Freidrich Berkowski was a skilled daguerreotypist living in the then Prussian city of K√∂nigsberg, now Kaliningrad, Russia, when he was commissioned by the Royal Prussian Observatory at K√∂nigsberg to capture an image of the total solar eclipse using the daguerreotype process, reports
To complete his task, Berkowski placed a polished, silver-coated copper plate that was treated with halogen or iodine fumes, making it sensitive to light, in his rudimentary camera. The plate was exposed for 84 seconds during totality, leaving behind a latent image.
The oldest photo of a total eclipse.
(J. Berkowski/Wikimedia Commons)

To then reveal the image, Berkowski treated the copper plate with mercury vapor in a dark room, which stopped the light sensitivity and the process. After rinsing the plate and drying it, he sealed the plate a glass frame. (PHOTOS: What an Eclipse Looked Like in the 20th Century)
The end result of the multi-step process was a black-and-white image, beautifully capturing the eclipse and the sun's corona from behind the moon.
According to a paper in the journal Acta Historica Astronomiae, while others tried to capture an eclipse before him, Berkowski's daguerreotype was the first correctly exposed image of the sun's corona.
To help you take awesome eclipse photos of your own on Monday, check out's eclipse photography guide.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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