Solar Spot

1864 in England
James Hall Nasmyth

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Science Museum Group Collection
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Painting in black and white by James Nasmyth of a group of sunspots. Oil, distemper and lampblack on paper, 90x64cm, backed with conservation paper 94x68cm. NB Old mount removed during conservation April 2000 has revealed title at bottom SOLAR SPOT JUNE 5 [18--, year worn away]

Black and white painting done by James Nasmyth (1808-1890) in oil distemper and lampblack showing a group of sunspots. Working from sketches made directly at his telescope, he used his considerable artistic skill to produce this portrayal the surface of the Sun on the 5th June 1864. Nasmyth a successful industrialist and engineer made extensive observations of the Sun after he retired from business in Manchester and moved to a new home near Hawkshurst in Kent, England. Through his observations Nasmyth discovered fine-scale solar features, which he called 'willow-leaf-shaped objects', a detail that is clearly evident in this painting. Difficult to view, their existence was disputed for many years, but today these structures are termed solar granulation.


Object Number:
overall - secondary support: 913 mm x 665 mm
overall - original: 893 mm x 645 mm
oil painting
  • visual and verbal communication
  • oil painting - visual work
University Observatory, Oxford