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These 19th-century astronomical drawings show the beauty of cosmos

Étienne Léopold Trouvelot

We live in a golden age of astrophotography, with a feast of jaw-dropping images from the farthest reaches of space crossing our news feeds on a daily basis. But sometimes it’s good to revisit the imagery of our pre-photographic past—in this case, the work of 19th-century illustrator Étienne Léopold Trouvelot. The Frenchman, once dubbed the “prince of observers,” produced some 7000 astronomical illustrations over his lifetime, and we’re featuring some of the best of them here.

Trouvelot was born in Aisne, France, but his political leanings put him at odds with Napoleon Bonaparte. After Napoleon’s 1852 coup d’état, Trouvelot fled the country with his family in 1855 and landed in the Medford suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Trained as an artist, nature illustrator, and printmaker, Trouvelot fell in love with astronomy after witnessing several auroras, and he began illustrating the amateur observations he spied through his small telescope.

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