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Corona of the Sun during a Solar Eclipse by Thomas Smillie
  • Corona of the Sun during a Solar Eclipse, 1900
  • Thomas Smillie
  • Glass plate negative, 7.9"x5.2"
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives
  • Image No. RU 7005 Box 186 Folder 1

In 1900 the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, then based in Washington, D.C., loaded several railroad cars with scientific equipment and headed to Wadesboro, North Carolina. Scientists had determined that this small town would be the best location in North America for viewing an expected total solar eclipse, and the Smithsonian Solar Eclipse Expedition hoped to capture photographic proof of the solar corona during the event for further study. The team included Smithsonian photographer Thomas Smillie, who headed up the mission’s photographic component. Smillie rigged cameras to seven telescopes and successfully made eight glass-plate negatives, ranging in size from eleven by fourteen inches to thirty by thirty inches. At the time, Smillie’s work was considered an amazing photographic and scientific achievement.

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