May 15, 1836. On this date, Francis Baily, an English astronomer, saw beads of sunlight shining along the edge of the moon’s silhouette during an eclipse of the sun.
It was an annular eclipse – nowadays often called a ring of fire eclipse – meaning that the moon was too far away in its monthly orbit around Earth to appear large enough in our sky to cover the sun completely. At mid-eclipse, Baily saw beads of light shining around the darkened moon. They resembled beads on a string. Later, it was realized that these beads of light appeared due to the presence of mountains, crater walls and other topographic features extending above the limb, or edge, of the moon as seen from Earth.
This phenomenon, which can be seen during both annular and total eclipses, is now known as Baily’s Beads.
Viewers with disabilities can get assistance accessing this station's FCC Public Inspection File by contacting the station with the information listed below. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, 888-835-5322 (TTY), or email@example.com.