He worked for the Harvard College observatory, using a telescope with a grid etched into the glass eyepiece and sketching his astronomical observations on grid paper.
Trouvelot published 15 of his sketches as pastels. They're some of the best-preserved astronomical drawings of the 19th century.
Some illustrations are incredibly accurate, documenting moon craters and solar flares with scientific precision. Others are more creative and abstract, projecting Trouvelot's artistic expression onto the cosmos.
Today, sophisticated observatories and space telescopes snap images of the same celestial phenomena that Trouvelot captured more than 150 years ago. Here's how the 19th-century drawings compare to contemporary photos.
Etienne Léopold Trouvelot spent hours peering at planets, star clusters, and solar eruptions through a telescope with a grid etched into its glass eyepiece.
Born in France in 1827, Trouvelot is most famous for bringing gypsy moths with him to the US. The invasive insect would go on to spread across North America, devouring more than 300 species of trees and shrubs.
But Trouvelot was also an artist, and he got a job sketching astronomical observations at Harvard College's observatory. He drew what he saw through the gridded telescope.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Over time, he turned many of those sketches into pastels and published 15 of them in The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings Manual. This one shows sunspots.
These are dark patches of reduced temperatures that temporarily appear on the sun's surface.
More than 150 years later, photographic observatories on Earth and sophisticated telescopes in space are capturing the subjects of Trouvelot's drawings.
Compared to the real thing, some of his art is shockingly accurate, like this drawing of plasma bursting from the sun's surface.
NASA now has plenty of footage of flares and eruptions on the sun. Many of the explosions look just like Trouvelot's illustration.
In other drawings Trouvelot appears to have taken more artistic liberties, like this tribute to the aurora borealis.
In reality, those green and purple ribbons aren't usually so linear.
His depictions of the sun and moon in particular were exquisitely detailed.
He captured this 500-mile-wide region of the moon, called Mare Humorum, or Sea of Moisture, with camera-like precision.
Trouvelot's illustration of Jupiter includes the planet's Great Red Spot, a raging cyclone large enough to swallow the Earth.
It looks different than today's photos, but that's probably because the Great Red Spot has been shrinking and getting more circular since astronomers began observing it about 150 years ago.
Astronomers had been peering at Saturn for centuries by the time Trouvelot sketched it.
But in recent decades, spacecraft like NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have gotten closer, sharper looks.
Trouvelot's depiction of Saturn was straightforward, but his Mars was more abstract.
Perhaps he caught the planet during a dust storm, but nothing on its surface today makes such a dramatic swirl.
Looking beyond our solar system, Trouvelot spotted the Orion nebula - a dense cloud of gas that constantly forms new stars, 1,500 light-years from Earth.
NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes have captured Orion in three different light spectra, revealing gas layers of the stellar nursery.
This image is color-coded for different molecules. The yellow smudge at the center is home to four massive stars, which heat and ionize hydrogen and sulfur gas in the surrounding cloud of green. The red and orange represent clouds filled with carbon-rich organic molecules.
Trouvelot also turned his telescope to the Hercules constellation to capture the cosmic glow of its dense star cluster.
Hubble can zoom in much closer, though. The result is an exquisite, colorful portrait of more than 100,000 stars at the cluster's center.
Trouvelot captured another eerie glow here on Earth: the zodiacal light.
This triangular gleam appears on the horizon when dust orbiting the sun reflects its light towards the night side of Earth.
Trouvelot captured other celestial phenomenon that didn't require a telescope as well - like this comet that surprised the world in the summer of 1881.
Today, comets passing close to Earth are heavily documented by amateur and professional photographers.
Trouvelot also sketched the paths of dozens of meteors - small space rocks that burn up in Earth's atmosphere as our planet passes through a field of space debris.
In the drawing above, he was likely sketching the Leonids during their peak in mid-November. The shower comes from debris left in Earth's orbit by the Tempel-Tuttle comet.
That drawing resembles long-exposure images that capture the dozens, or even hundreds, of shooting stars that streak across the skies every hour during meteor showers.
Trouvelot also took an interest in eclipses. He sketched this partial lunar eclipse, when Earth's shadow blocked much of the sun's light from hitting the moon, in October 1874.
With modern cameras, the shadowed region of the moon during a partial eclipse appears much darker than in Trouvelot's pastel.
He also drew a total solar eclipse. It depicts the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, shining from behind the darkened moon.
The corona is only visible during a total solar eclipse. In photographs, it's more subtle.
Trouvelot studied the Milky Way arcing across the night sky in 1874, 1875, and 1876 for this illustration.
But today's astronauts can capture a far more vibrant and breathtaking Milky Way from space.
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