Friday, September 24th, 2010...11:44 am

Look! Up in the Sky!

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Thomas Sandby. The Meteor of Aug. 18, 1783 (detail) *2010-426A new acquisition beautifully documents a landmark in the study of meteors. Shortly after 9:00 PM on the evening of August 18th, 1783, a fireball streaked across the night sky, and thanks to the warm and muggy weather, was widely observed. Perhaps the best constituted party of observers was gathered on the terrace at Windsor Castle: their numbers included both the physicist Tiberius Cavallo and the artist Thomas Sandby. Cavallo would go on to publish his account and a diagram of the meteor’s progressive breakup in the atmosphere in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society the following year, along with the observations of several other members who also witnessed the event.

Tiberius Cavallo. Description of a Meteor. Philosophical Transactions, v. 74, p. 108.

Tiberius Cavallo. Description of a Meteor. Philosophical Transactions, v. 74, p. 112.

Thomas and his brother and collaborator Paul Sandby created a far more dramatic depiction of the event, this etching by Paul after Thomas’s watercolor painting. Our version of the print is remarkable for having been hand-colored and mounted by the Sandbys themselves. (click to enlarge)

Thomas Sandby. The Meteor of Aug. 18, 1783. *2010-426

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