Planetery Nebula [unknown date] (2013)
The Astronomy Archive of Florence May Watts (1892 – 1991)
Florence May Watts lived for most of her life at 19 Sandy Lane, Hoveton, Norfolk. Her passion for Astronomy began with the apparition of Halley’s comet in the spring of 1910. The public feared Halley’s arrival because of the toxic cyanogen reportedly contained within its tail, which was predicted to wipe out all life on Earth. Watts, however, marveled at Halley’s beauty, and followed its path with keen curiosity, aided by her Father’s telescope. This very scope would be passed on to her only 2 years later.
The archive, dating from 1910 until 1938, was found discarded inside a chest and tells of a remarkable story. Watts taught herself both Astronomy and Photography, uncommon hobbies for a woman to pursue in the early 20th century. The rich and varied collection uncovered Watts’ critical observations of the night sky in the form of handwritten notes and diagrams, as well as glass negatives and early transparency plates. The collection also included Astronomic literature; an extract entitled The Story of Halley’s Comet, pulled from a book published in 1909, a copy of ‘Mentor’ magazine subtitled New Marvels of Astronomy from 1921, and Camille Flammarion’s, Popular Astronomy of 1894.
One particular log entry informs us of Watts’ journey from her home in Norfolk to Giggleswick, in the North of England, to observe the total Solar Eclipse of June 29, 1927. Unknown to her at the time, Giggleswick was the only place in England where the clouds parted for long enough to show the eclipse’s entire 23-second totality. Other notable astronomical events Watts observed were the transits of Mercury across the Sun on November 7, 1914 and November 8, 1924. The last record found of her observations is a journal entry dated January 25, 1938, where she comments upon the “curtain of fire” - the brilliant Aurora Borealis - which swept the English winter sky that same day.
At Totality, 29th June 1927 (2013)
The Night Sky, 14th August 1914 (2013)
Navigational Sky Chart [unknown date] (2013)
Lunar study, 14th February 1919 (2013)
Apparition of Halley's Comet, 20th April 1910 (2013)
Spiral Galaxy, September 18th 1933 (2013)
Notebook Entry, 29th June, 1927 (2013)
Spiral Galaxy [unknown date] (2013)
Sunspots, 10th July 1929 (2013)
Ring Nebula [unknown date] (2013)
The Transit of Mercury, 8th May 1914 (2013)
Star Cluster [unknown date] (2013)