Dr. Marek Zawilski
Observations of occultation phenomena made in Germany in the past form a big and interesting collection. The paper presents the most valuable events from the author’s own collection gathered during several years’ search.
Beginning from early Middle Ages, German historical sources frequently
mentioned remarkable solar and lunar eclipses.
Most interesting records were made in 840, 878, 1133, 1241,1406, 1415,1433 and 1485 when clear descriptions of totality had been left.
Especially four last events brought multiple historical records. On August 2,1133, the most famous medieval European solar eclipse took place at a serene midday causing darkness and terror from Scotland to Israel. In Germany and Austria a great darkness with stars seen in the sky and cooled ground have been noticed. The situation repeated in the cloudless afternoon of October 6,1241. In 1400s, five big solar eclipses could be observed in Germany : on June 16,1406, June 7,1415, June 26,1424, June 17, 1433 and March 16, 1485. The events seemed to be foretold that time but not to the end : totality could not be foreseen very precisely for a single place on the Earth, therefore such a big phase was completely surprised for all viewers. Apart from the scientific astronomical value, the contemporary records are some kind of language monument (cf. the paper title borrowed from the original text made at Köln, concerning the solar eclipse of June 17,1433).
In 15th century, Bernhard Walther of Nuremberg began his fully scientific observations of eclipses and occultations. His was a pioneer of using the clock as a basic timekeeping. Apart from two solar eclipses – in 1478 and 1485 he also recorded contacts of some lunar eclipses as well as had seen at least two lunar occultations: of Mars on November 28,1484 and Regulus on October 21,1486.
Next, Johann Kepler, Michael Mästlin and Christoph Scheiner continued such observations at the break of 16th and 17th centuries.
Kepler asserted he had seen the occultation of Antares by the Moon in Kaertnen/ Austria on August 17,1600. Mästlin had seen several lunar occultations including so rare event like the daylight occultation of Venus on June 2, 1587.
Occultations and eclipses were one of main observational subjects of famous Johannes Hevelius flourishing at Danzig/Gda?sk in 17th century. He regularly used clocks and refractors for his observations.
Two big solar eclipses of September 23, 1699 and May 12,1706 again attracted the attention of many spectators. The first event was total in the narrow path across Pomerania and gave interesting results as seen from Hamburg, Kiel Greifswald, Stralsund but also from many other places in Germany where it was seen as big partial. In 1706, excellent weather conditions allowed performing many valuable observations. It seemed to be last total solar eclipse seen in Europe with so good weather. Rich description of the eclipse was made at Nürnberg, Lindau, Ulm, Zittau, Görlitz, Dresden, Leipzig, Berlin, Breslau, Marienburg and Königsberg. At Nuremberg, Johann Philipp Wurzelbaur made a first known picture of totality. At Breslau, Christoph Heinrich was the first observer in history who described the phenomenon later named as “Baily’s beads”. His observation was forgotten for long time.
On July 25,1748, one of the earliest detailed recordings of annularity was performed by Grischow at Berlin. Total eclipse of November 19,1816 could be seen with clouded sky by few observers at Pomerania only. Precise observations of annular eclipse were then possible on September 7, 1820.
The next opportunity was the total eclipse on July 28,1851 when several teams of astronomers were located in their stations in Prussia and northern Poland. Such famous astronomers like Schröter at Könisgberg, Galle at Frauenburg and von Struve at ?om?a could make their observations successfully.
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