18th-century etching of a meteor breaking apart


This detail is from an etching was done by artist Paul Sandby, based on a watercolor by his brother Thomas. Recently acquired by Harvard's Houghton Library, it depicts a meteor watching party at Windsor Castle.

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.

You can read excerpts from Cavallo's manuscript at the Houghton Library blog.

Submitterated by Horace Rumpole