A 19th-century French-born artist Etienne Leopold Trouvelot had a job at Harvard College’s observatory, and he created sketches of astronomical observations. Although Trouvelot himself is less well-known for his astronomical art, he had mesmerizing, stunningly accurate astronomical drawings.
Today, Trouvelot’s arts are digitized and made available by the New York Public Library. Also, a crater on Mars bears his name.
We have curated Trouvelot’s drawings for you and added NASA’s photos to compare them.
The planet Mars. Observed September 3, 1877, at 11h. 55m. P.M.
With NASA’s Mars Expedition Rovers, we have more detailed images of Mars than ever before. Still, you can see how Trouvelot included similar shading, and the spots in his drawing resemble those around the left edge of NASA’s photo.
Valles Marineris The Grand Canyon of Mars
The largest canyon in the Solar System cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long.
The Planet Jupiter. Observed November 1, 1880, at 9h. 30m. P.M.
Check out that Great Red Spot and the bands on Jupiter’s surface! NASA’s Juno recently reached Jupiter and sent back a less clear image, as well, but we can look forward to much more detail soon as Juno circles Jupiter 37 times at varying altitudes to photograph its surface.
Jupiter From the Ground
This image of Jupiter and its moons Io and Ganymede was acquired by amateur astronomer Damian Peach on Sept. 12, 2010, when Jupiter was close to opposition. South is up and the “Great Red Spot” is visible in the image.
Partial eclipse of the moon. Observed October 24, 1874.
No telescope required for this one. Anyone who has stepped outside to check out a Lunar Eclipse can verify the accuracy—it even shows the very slight illumination of the moon’s eclipsed surface.
Supermoon Lunar Eclipse
A perigee full moon, or supermoon, is seen behind the Washington Monument during a total lunar eclipse on Sunday, September 27, 2015, in Washington, DC.
The great nebula in Orion. From a study made in the years 1875-76.
The enhanced spectrum of NASA’s photo wasn’t available in Trouvelot’s time, but you can spot the same curvature of the nebula (though it’s the reverse of the NASA image) and the denser center.
Chaos at the Heart of Orion
NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes teamed up to expose the chaos that baby stars are creating 1,500 light years away in a cosmic cloud called the Orion nebula.
Star clusters in Hurcules. From a study made in June, 1877.
One of the brightest star clusters in the northern sky, this one is visible with the naked eye on a clear night in the countryside.
The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, one of the brightest globular star clusters in the northern sky. Telescopic views reveal the spectacular cluster’s hundreds of thousands of stars.
Part of the Milky Way. From a study made during the years 1874, 1875 and 1876.
There’s nothing quite like looking up at the Milky Way on a clear night to make you feel incredibly small. In Trouvelot’s drawing you can spot a bit of sea and a ship at the bottom—perhaps he was contemplating his own insignificance by the sea when he did this study.
Milky Way Viewed From the International Space Station
NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this image from the International Space Station and posted it to social media on Sept. 28, 2014, writing, “The Milky Way steals the show from Sahara sands that make the Earth glow orange.”
The planet Saturn. Observed on November 30, 1874, at 5h. 30m. P.M.
Different angles, but the NASA photo from the Cassini mission almost feels like a drawing and vice versa.
Up and Over
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 16 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb.
Total eclipse of the sun. Observed July 29, 1878, at Creston, Wyoming Territory
Try not to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. I personally enjoy Trouvelot’s added artistic flair (or flare, if you want to be punny) on this one.
Image of Solar Eclipse as seen by Hinode Satellite
The Hinode satellite observing our sun captured images of the moon traversing the face of the sun during a solar eclipse this week. On Wednesday, July 22, 2009, a total eclipse of the Sun was visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses half of Earth.
The shot from the International Space Station has slightly less curvature than Trouvelot’s drawing, but it’s a similarly spectacular view of this phenomenon.
Aurora Borealis Over the Midwest
Aurora Borealis steals the scene in this nighttime photograph shot from the International Space Station as the orbital outpost flew over the Midwest recently.
Group of sun spots and veiled spots. Observed on June 17th 1875 at 7 h. 30 m. A.M.
Our ability to get detailed imagery of the Sun has dramatically improved, but zoom in on NASA’s image and you’ll see Trouvelot actually created a spectacular representation of sun spots.
Two Coronal Holes on the Sun
This image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on March 16, 2015, shows two dark spots, called coronal holes. The lower coronal hole was one of the biggest observed in decades.