Watch a 120-Year-Old Video of a Solar Eclipse

Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

On July 2, 2019, the first total solar eclipse since 2017 will be visible over parts of South America and the South Pacific. Today eclipses are highly photographed events, but a century ago, filming one required careful planning and hard-to-obtain equipment. In 1900, a magician named Nevil Maskelyne managed to capture the rare phenomenon, and now for the first time, that footage is available to view online, Smithsonian reports.

Solar eclipses, which happen when the Moon appears to block out the Sun from certain places on Earth, have been inspiring terror and awe in people for centuries. For most of history, the only way to witness one was to stand within the path of visibility during a specific timeframe. Maskelyne may have been the first person to record the event and show it to a wider audience.

As a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a co-manager of London's oldest magic theater, Maskelyne spent a lot of time working in the area where magic, science, and technology intersect. In 1898, he traveled to India to film a total solar eclipse with a telescopic movie camera he had rigged himself. That may have been the first footage of a solar eclipse ever recorded, but his film was stolen on the return trip.

Another solar eclipse was set to appear over the United States in 1900, so he went to North Carolina to attempt to capture the phenomenon a second time. His project was a success, and the one-minute clip was likely screened at the Egyptian Hall magic theater he ran in London. The film has been stored in the archives of the Royal Astronomical Society ever since.

After rediscovering the historic footage, the Royal Astronomical Society teamed up with conservationists at the British Film Institute National Archive to digitize and restore it. The video has been uploaded into BFI Player's Victorian Film collection, and it's also available to view on YouTube.

The clip contains not only the oldest surviving moving images of a solar eclipse, but possibly of any astronomical event. BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon said in a press release, "Film, like magic, combines both art and science. This is a story about magic; magic and art and science and film and the blurred lines between them. Early film historians have been looking for this film for many years. Like one of his elaborate illusions, it's exciting to think that this, [the] only known surviving film by Maskelyne, has reappeared now."

You can watch the full video below.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Florence’s Plague-Era Wine Windows Are Back in Business

A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.
A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.

Many bars and restaurants have started selling takeout cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to stay in business—and keep customers safe—during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, 17th-century Florentines are surely applauding from their front-row seats in the afterlife.

As Insider reports, a number of buildings in Florence had been constructed with small “wine windows,” or buchette del vino, through which vendors sold wine directly to less affluent customers. When the city suffered an outbreak of plague in the 1630s, business owners recognized the value of these windows as a way to serve people without spreading germs. They even exchanged money on a metal tray that was sanitized with vinegar.

Wine not?sailko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Things eventually went back to normal, and the windows slowly fell out of fashion altogether as commerce laws evolved. This year, however, they’ve made a comeback. According to Food & Wine, there are currently at least four in operation around Florence. Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi is using its window to deliver wine and cocktails, for example, and the Vivoli ice cream shop, a go-to dessert spot since 1929, is handing out sweet scoops and coffee through its formerly dormant aperture.

Apart from the recent resurgence of interest, the wine windows often go unnoticed by tourists drawn to the grandeur of attractions like the Uffizi Gallery and the Florence Cathedral. So in 2015, locals Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini, and Mary Christine Forrest established the Wine Window Association to generate some buzz. In addition to researching the history of the windows, they also keep a running list of all the ones they know of. Florence has roughly 150, and there are another 100 or so in other parts of Tuscany.

They’re hoping to affix a plaque near each window to promote their stories and discourage people from defacing them. And if you want to support their work, you can even become a member of the organization for €25 (about $29).

[h/t Insider]