Hugh Vail's interest in astronomy went beyond his work at the Haverford College Observatory. In the History of Haverford College for the First Sixty Years of its Existence, it is noted that there was "none more delighted to point out the stars and constellations." Though primarily a professor of mathematics, Vail possessed a diverse set of interests. In this page from his scrapbook of newspaper clippings, he explains the eclipse that was to happen on January 1, 1889. Vail gives both an explanation of the astronomy behind eclipses in general, including a diagram, and also goes on to provide the exact timing of a coming eclipse in Santa Barbara, all with the excited tone of an avid astronomer.
Eclipses were often the subject for Vail's contributions to local newspapers. The clipping shown here discusses in detail the astronomical factors behind eclipses, and attempts to go beyond simple facts of timing and location. Vail explains the science simply but thoroughly, and includes some of the ancient history behind astronomy by briefly mentioning certain Chinese astronomers who made discoveries under Emperor Hoang-Ti. Other scrapbook entries record a reminder of a coming eclipse and draw the distinction between lunar and solar eclipses.
Vail also busied himself with general astronomical research regarding Santa Barbara, writing articles about daylight of a given year or comparisons of the amount of light received by different cities.
Other topics of research and explanation included the passing of meteors, which occured over Santa Barbara one Sunday evening in early October of 1898. The article shown here is especially noteworthy, since it mentions a similar incident that occurred in Plainfield and Pennsylvania, where Vail began his astronomical observations. He also notes some of the findings of Professor Silliman, the scientist whose work he had studied back at the Mercantile Library in his earlier days.
Despite retiring from teaching, Vail's passion for learning and sharing knowledge with others persisted through his many news articles regarding astronomy. His scrapbook also contains articles related to other topics, such as nature and meteorology, but it is interesting to draw the parallel between his mission to improve the general study of astronomy at Haverford College and his detailed articles relating to eclipses, daylight, meteors, and the passing of planets.