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The history of
Astronomy in
Wales:
Introduction



Published
Summaries
of the Subject



People


Publications:
Books and
Journals



Astronomical
Societies in
Wales



Astronomical
Observatories
in Wales



Universities
in Wales



Historic
Observations



Eclipses in
Wales



Meteorite
Falls in Wales



Names of
astronomical
objects



Odds and
ends



Commentary


Web
Links



  

HISTORICAL ECLIPSES IN WALES


Introduction

Total solar eclipses occur only extremely rarely at any single place on the Earth. However, when they do occur, they can be so spectacular that descriptions can often be found in historical records.

The last total solar eclipses visible in Wales occurred in June 1927, May 1724, May 1715, April 1652, February 1598, March 1140, January 1023, October 878, September 639, May 458, April 413, November 393, May 319, March 228, and February 129.

The last annular eclipses visible from Wales occurred in October 1847, December 1601, April 1409, September 1290, June 1191, January 1180, April 934, June 764, August 733, December 698, July 661, and September 536. (This information about the dates of eclipses has been taken from the excellent book UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Sheridan Williams, published by the Clock Tower Press.) Lunar eclipses and partial solar eclipses are relatively common but are not as spectacular as total solar eclipses. They have therefore tended not to be recorded as much.

The weather at the time of the total solar eclipse of 29th June 1927 was very poor, with thick cloud and rain. It was not observed directly from Wales. Descriptions of the event can be found in newspapers from the time.

References to some eclipses can be found in ancient Welsh manuscripts.



Information on these Web Pages

Detailed information about historical eclipses observed from Wales can be found on the pages devoted to:

Some more general observations of eclipses are summarised below.



The April/May 1715 Total Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse occurred in the morning of 22nd April, 1715, on the Julian calendar (then in operation in Great Britain); that same day was 3rd May, 1715, on the Gregorian calendar (then in use in most of continental Europe, and the system used worldwide today). The eclipse was total over most of south and east Wales, as well as most of southern England and the English Midlands. The northern limit of the track of totality ran from the Pembrokeshire coast at St. Bride's Bay, through Ceredigion and Montgomeryshire: the eclipse was total south of this line.

Edmund Halley, then Savilian Professor of Geometry in Oxford, issued requests for people to observe the eclipse. He distributed printed copies of a leaflet detailing his predictions of the event, including a map showing the path of the track of totality that he had calculated using the best available information about the relative motions of the Earth, Moon and Sun. Halley later gathered reports from across England and Wales, then analysed then to refine information about the relative motions of the Moon, Earth and Sun. This used, in particular, timings of the start and end of the partial phases of the eclipse, of the start and end of the total phase, and of the duration of the eclipse. He described the eclipse in detail in a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 29, pp. 245-262, 1715. On page 257 he wrote:

      The Northern Limit, having past over a much greater Space, has had more Observers, and is not less curiously determined than the other. We find by the Account given by the Reverend Mr. Roger Prosser, Rector of Haverford-West, that the Eclipse was total there a Minute and half, whence it follows that Haverford was but about 6 Miles within the Limit ; and therefore that it entred onPembrokeshire about the middle of St. Brides Bay, leaving St. David's and Cardigan on the left Hand : and having traversed those two Counties and Montgomery-shire, it entred on Shropshire, leaving the Town of Shrewsbury 1'.40". in the Shadow, as was observed there by Dr. Hollings : whereby it appears that Shrewsbury was about 8 Miles within the Limit.
Observers in Wales, England and Ireland provided timings of the start and end of the partial eclipse, and people lying in the track of totality also timed the start and end of the total phase. Halley lists an unnamed observer in "Broadway, Carmarth." who timed the start of totality (immersion) as taking place at 8h 47m 00s, and the end (emersion) at 8h 49m 30s. The duration of totality was 2m 30s. A Mr. Rowland of Llanidan, Anglesey, timed the start of the partial phase as 7h 52m 30s (the eclipse was only partial in Ynys Môn). No time for the end of the eclipse is given for Llanidan (whether because of cloud or for other reasons).



The May 1724 Total Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse took place on the early evening of 11th May, 1724, on the Julian calendar (then in use in Great Britain); that day was known as 22nd May, 1724, on the Gregorian calendar (then in use in most of continental Europe). The eclipse was total across south Wales and in Ceredigion. The central line passed over the southwestern tip of Pembrokeshire. Conditions were generally poor, with much cloud. This has significantly limited the number of surviving reports of the eclipse.

Most of south Wales, like some parts of southern and western England, experienced two total solar eclipses within a period of only ten years.



The May 1836 Solar Eclipse

An annular solar eclipse took place in the afternoon of the 15th May, 1836, in the north of Ireland, southern and central Scotland, and the northernmost parts of England. The eclipse was visible as a large-magnitude partial eclipse in Wales.

The June 1836 edition of the general interest magazine Y Seren Ogleddol reported:

DIFFYG AR YR HAUL

CYMERODD y peth anarferol hwn le, Sabbath y 15 o Fai, yn union yn yr amser, ac yn ol y darluniad a roisom o hono yn ein papyr yr wythnos o'r blaen, ebai y `Carnarvon Herald.' Yr oedd yr awyrgylch yn dra ffafrol i sylwi arno, a'r blaned Gwener oedd yn weladwy i'r llygad noeth o dri o'r gloch hyd ugain mynyd wedi tri.

     Mewn rhai mannau yn y dywysogaeth, dywedir fod y brain yn myned i'w coedwigoedd, ar adar yn myned i'w nythod, a'r ystlym yn gwneuthur ei hymddangosiad ; yr ieir yn chwilio am eu clwydau. Yr oedd natur wedi pruddhau, fel wedi ei tharaw â dychryn a syndod ; yr awyr yn yn oer ac yn dywyllddu, fel pe buasai ryw ymarllwysiad ofnadwy ar ddyfod i'r ddaear o rywbeth anarferol ; ac wedi i'r llen gael ei symud dipyn oddiar wyneb brenin y dydd, dyma natur fel yn codi o farw i fyw, yr ystlumod yn dianc i'w tyllau, a'r adar mân yn pyncio pereiddfawl i'w Crëwr, a phob peth yn ymddangos mor siriol a dymunol a chynt.-"Wele dyma ranau ei ffyrdd ef, ond mor fychan ydyw y peth ydym ni yn ei glywed am dano ef!"

[Y Seren Ogleddol, June 1836, page 183.]

[This can be translated as:

ECLIPSE OF THE SUN

This unusual event took place, Sunday the 15th of May, at the exact time, and according to the picture of it we gave in our paper the week before, said the `Carnarvon Herald'. The atmosphere was quite favourable for observing it, and the planet Venus was visible to the naked eye from three o'clock to twenty minutes past three.

     In some places in the principality, it was said that crows went to their woods, and birds went to their nests, and bats made their appearances ; hens looked for their roosts. Nature had become saddened, as though struck by fright and surprise ; the air was cold and dark black, as though some dreadful outpouring was about to come to the earth from something unusual ; and after the veil had been moved a little off the face of the king of the day, here was nature as though rising from the dead to life, and the bats escaping to their holes, and the little birds singing sweet praise to their Creator, and everything showing so cheerful and pleasant as before.-"See here parts of his paths, but how little is the thing that we here about him!"

]



The October 1847 Annular Solar Eclipse

The last annular eclipse visible from Wales took place in the early morning of 9th October, 1847, when the Sun was still low in the sky. Annular eclipses, of course, take place when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun but when the Moon is further from the Earth in its orbit than average and appears too small in the sky to cover the Sun entirely. A very narrow ring of the Sun's disc can then be seen surrounding the Moon.

The track of the annular eclipse of October 1847, passed over south Wales, moving across Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. It also passed over southernmost counties of England.

Writing in the Cambrian Natural Observer in 1900, R. Kendrick of Aberystwyth recalled the 1847 annular eclipse. He observed it as a child from outside the annular track, where it was seen as a large-magnitude partial eclipse.

Rwyf yn awr heb fod yn mhell iawn o fod yn driugain mlwydd oed, ac yr ydwyf yn seryddwr o rhyw fath er yn ieuanc iawn. Cefus genyf weled y diffyg rhanol mawr tua'r flwyddyn 1847, ac mae'r syndod a'm llanwodd yr adeg hono yn fyw yn fy meddwl y foment hon. Rywsut, yr wyf yn meddwl fod Rhagluniaeth yn fy ffafrio gyda phethau seryddol.

[Cambrian Natural Observer, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 30-31, October 1900.]

[This translates into English as:

I am now not very far from being sixty years old, and I have been an astronomer of some sort since a very young age. I have the memory of seing the large partial eclipse around the year 1847, and the surprise that filled me at that time is alive in my mind at this moment. Somehow, I think that Providence has favoured me with astronomical phenomena.

]



Twentieth Century Partial Solar Eclipses

The sequence of photographs below was taken by Ernest Madge of Morriston, near Swansea, and show the partial solar eclipse of 17th April, 1912. No information is available about the equipment used. At the maxium, 82% of the area of the Sun's disc was obscured by the Sun as seen from Cardiff.

Solar eclipse of 17th April, 1912

[The image was taken from the book Y Bydoedd Uwchben by Caradoc Mills of Llanrwst, published by P. Jones-Roberts, Y Llyfrfa, Bangor, 1914, facing page 162.]

Partial solar eclipses are visible from any one place on Earth on average every few years. For example, during the twentieth century, 41 partial solar eclipses were visible from Cardiff (cloud permitting) [see D. Beard, J. British. Astron. Assoc., 111, 2, 88-98, 2001]. As such, they are not rare events and do not have the interest of total or annular solar eclipses.







  

   
This page was created and is maintained by Bryn Jones.   E-mail: bryn.jones.email@gmail.com .
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This page was first created in January 2000   (at a different address).
It was last modified on 3rd March, 2008.
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This page replaced in August 2008 the old page http://brynjones.members.beeb.net/wastronhist/eclipseshist.html .   An archived copy of the old page is available here.