When I talk about space, there is so much even now we don’t know about. It’s an unexplored world. Imagine how it would be like in 19th century when you had no special way to document or capture what you see.

Thanks to Étienne Léopold Trouvelot who worked as an illustrator at at the Harvard observatory, and later a stint at the U.S. Naval Observatory where he was allowed access to state-of-the-art refracting telescopes.

Trouvelot was especially drawn to the sun, its protuberances and the “veiled” sunspots he discovered in 1875. Today his name is attached to separate craters on both the Moon and Mars.

Trouvelot produced thousands of beautifully impressionistic images over his career. His cosmic interpretations came from direct observation, but they also allowed viewers access to a mostly invisible world at a time when people relied on illustrations to show them what they couldn’t see.

Have a look!

Total eclipse of the sun. Observed July 29, 1878, at Creston, Wyoming Territory. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

Total eclipse of the sun. Observed July 29, 1878, at Creston, Wyoming Territory. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

The great nebula in Orion. From a study made in the years 1875–76. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

The great nebula in Orion. From a study made in the years 1875–76. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

Star clusters in Hurcules. From a study made in June, 1877. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

Star clusters in Hurcules. From a study made in June, 1877. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

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Mare Humorum. From a study made in 1875. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

(L) Solar protuberances. Observed on May 5, 1873 at 9h, 40m. A.M. / (R) Partial eclipse of the moon. Observed October 24, 1874. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

Partial eclipse of the moon. Observed October 24, 1874. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

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The November meteors. As observed between midnight and 5 o’clock A.M. on the night of November 13–14 1868.

Part of the Milky Way. From a study made during the years 1874, 1875 and 1876. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

Part of the Milky Way. From a study made during the years 1874, 1875 and 1876. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

The great comet of 1881. Observed on the night of June 25–26 at 1h. 30m. A.M.

The great comet of 1881. Observed on the night of June 25–26 at 1h. 30m. A.M.

Aurora Borealis. As observed March 1, 1872, at 9h. 25m. P.M. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

Aurora Borealis. As observed March 1, 1872, at 9h. 25m. P.M. (Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings/NY Public Library)

Illustrations courtesy The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings (C. Scribner’s Sons) via the New York Public Library.

 

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