Colorado Springs author relates account of eclipse that 'changed astronomy'

By Seth Boster Updated: August 11, 2017 at 8:52 pm • Published: August 11, 2017 0

While looking forward to the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, take a look back.

Local science historian and Colorado Springs native Steve Ruskin on Sunday will be at the Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave., to discuss his new book, "America's First Great Eclipse." The account centers on the day in July 1878, when the moon momentarily covered the sun over the Rocky Mountains in an event that Ruskin argues "changed astronomy forever."

"I didn't think that much had happened in the history of science in Colorado," said Ruskin, who has previously authored a book on John Herschel's 1833 astronomical expedition in southern Africa. "I was happy to find out I was wrong."

"America's First Great Eclipse" tells of the phenomenon 139 years ago that made the Springs "overrun" with scientists and tourists from afar. Famed astronomer and physicist Samuel Langley was among those eager to witness the eclipse at a high elevation. His determination led him to the top of Pikes Peak.

In 1878, Colorado was 2 years old as a state, and the Springs was on its way to becoming the resort envisioned by Gen. William Jackson Palmer. Ruskin found that the buzz surrounding the total eclipse that year was not so different from that surrounding this upcoming one. A celestial show like this spanning coast to coast hasn't occurred in 99 years. While the Springs will experience a partial eclipse, many in town are planning to drive to Wyoming or Nebraska, among the states along the "path of totality" where minutes of complete darkness will descend on the afternoon.

Ruskin is scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m. in the downtown library's Carnegie Room.

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