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A Strange Optical Phenomenon: 22Nd May 1870

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Here are reports of a strange optical phenomenon that was widely observed over Ireland on the 22nd of May 1870 and from one or two other parts of the British Isles.

J.W. Moore

"Through the canopy of cirrostratus the sun now came into view, being at first of a pale white colour, but soon assuming a pinkish or carmine tint. A strange lurid light spread over the landscape and it seemed as though a total eclipse was in progress. For some hours the sun was seen under these circumstances and several spots were noticed scattered over the disc.....The cloud which produced the appearance just described, no doubt was a vapour-fog suspended in mid-air, the motion of which was extremely slow. The extent of this cloud formation was remarkable. It was noticed in Wicklow, Dublin, Meath, Cavan, Connemara, Louth and Antrim"

Another report

"On Sunday last it was remarked that the sun had a strange bright copper colour and when looked through an ordinary opera glass, eight spots were distinctly visible on lower half of disc. The atmosphere was thick and indeed the sun seemed as if shining through smoke."

Bailieborough

"From a very early period of the day until late in the evening, groups of people might be seen gazing heavenward, some of them betraying by their looks evident apprehension of danger and all of them more or less emotions of interest or astonishment, while they continually inquired from one and the other. "What is the matter with the sun?" Young, old, rich and poor wre attracted by the strange and varied attire with which "mighty Sol" decorated himself ever and anon exhibiting almost lightning rapidity, dresses of every tint and colour, simple and compound: light pink, blood, red, purple, green, blue, yellow and then bright like silver. "

Inniskeen Rectory, Dundalk

"The obscuration of the pink veil lasted until 5 o'clock. During itd prevalence all terrestial objects presented a strange lurid appearance, like exhibited during a solar eclipse. There were many spots on the face of the sun, some of them large enough to be seen with naked eye, which required no defence of darkening glass even in the focus of a three inch glass telescope. The phenomenon was very beautiful and not alarming."

Doo Castle: 9am to 3pm curious appearance of the sun changing from red to pale violet, there was a dense and peculiar cloud passing high up from the earth; horizon clear.

Dublin: 1pm to 5pm

Tynemouth: 5pm

Cambridge: 10am on 23rd.

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Quite bizarre, any ideas what might have caused it? Volcanic fog of some sort perhaps and a partial solar eclipse?

It definitely wasn't a solar eclipse. I suspect it could have been smoke from forest fires perhaps in North America and was carried on the wind across the pond.

Could it have been smoke from this? The Saguenay Fire of Quebec

http://www.histori.ca/minutes/minute.do?id=10172

Edited by Mr_Data

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It definitely wasn't a solar eclipse. I suspect it could have been smoke from forest fires perhaps in North America and was carried on the wind across the pond.

Could it have been smoke from this? The Saguenay Fire of Quebec

http://www.histori.c...ute.do?id=10172

Sounds very likely you have hit on the answer there Mr Data, what would the spots on the sun be though? Sunspots perhaps that were noticable because the sun could be viewed without eye protection?

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what would the spots on the sun be though? Sunspots perhaps that were noticable because the sun could be viewed without eye protection?

Yes, probably sunspots. There wereas a lot of aurorae visible around that period from the UK.

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