Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 69

from an altitude of 10,000 feet to radio stations broadcasting
from the ground. Alas, the transmitter's generator quit when
the plane was already aloft, and the first-ever live podcast of an
astronomical event was not to be.
When the airplanes landed back at their base, crews rushed
the photographic plates and newsreel footage to developing
rooms, and within 3 hours pictures of the eclipse were showing in Broadway movie theaters. One set of newsreel films was
sent by air mail to the West Coast; the postage stamps affi xed
to the package totaled $536.14 ($7,500 today) - "the costliest
package ever sent by mail in the history of the United States,"
reported the New York Times. David Todd, Emeritus Professor
of Astronomy at Amherst College, debriefed the returning air
crews and said, with exaggerated flair, "Astronomical science
advanced a thousand years this morning."

Determining the Umbra's Edge
p VULCAN HUNT Photographers and telescopic observers waited as
totality approached Seagrave Observatory in Rhode Island.

COURTESY MIK E K EN TRIA N A K IS / A AS / TSE1925.CO M (2)

Observing the Eclipse from the Air
From a scientific point of view, the New York eclipse marked
several firsts. In East Hampton near the eastern end of Long
Island, E. R. Hewitt of the Scientific American Eclipse Expedition took what were believed to be, according to the New York
Times, the first color photographs of an eclipse. He exposed
fifteen plates, four or five of them during totality.
Hovering over the Atlantic about 19 miles off Long Island's
Montauk Point, the giant navy dirigible Los Angeles, with
42 crew members and scientists on board, was photographing the eclipse from an altitude of 8,000 feet. Braving a
bone-chilling 5°F at ground level, the cavernous airship took
off from its base at Lakehurst, New Jersey, shortly after 5
a.m., assisted by a ground crew of 300 sailors and marines.
It stayed aloft till 3:40 p.m. The Navy's chief photographer,
A. K. Peterson, perched himself on an exposed platform
outside the ship from 7:43 to 10:30 a.m., operating a longrange motion-picture camera. During the 2 minutes and 4.6
seconds of totality his nose and right cheek froze, and he
was barely able to do his job; he described it as the weirdest
sensation he had ever experienced. Footage from the harrowing trip of the Los Angeles - the first fully-equipped airborne
astronomical observatory - can be viewed on Mike Kentrianakis's blog at www.tse1925.com.
The Los Angeles wasn't the only aircraft chasing the eclipse.
A fleet of 25 airplanes of the Army Air Service, each carrying a
pilot and an observer, took off from Mitchel Field and formed
a line stretching from New Haven, Connecticut, to Greenport,
Long Island, to observe the Moon's shadow as it raced over
the land at a terrifying speed. In their open cockpits, braving
the aircrafts' slipstream of 120 miles an hour, they snatched
still- and motion-picture photographs of the eclipsed Sun. One
"machine" (as airplanes were then called) was equipped with a
radio transmitter, and the entire show was to be narrated live

One of the most-reported aspects of the 1925 eclipse was
the determination of the umbra's precise southern edge over
Manhattan. The New York Edison Company, and seven other
electric companies affiliated with the Consolidated Gas
Company of New York, stationed 149 observers on rooftops
along Riverside Drive overlooking the Hudson River at every
street intersection from 72nd to 135th Streets. Each team
comprised at least two observers: observer "A" was to watch
the surface of the Hudson for the shadow approaching from
the west and report whether its edge passed to the north or
to the south of him. Observer "B" was to watch the Sun in

p HIGH-ALTITUDE OBSERVATORY The Navy airship Los Angeles,
seen here over lower Manhattan, hosted an airborne eclipse expedition.
s k y a n d t e l e s c o p e .c o m

* JANUARY 2017

69


http://www.TSE1925.COM http://www.tse1925.com http://www.skyandtelescope.com

Sky and Telescope - January 2017

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