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May 18 2012

Annular Eclipse Sunday, Western US

If you live within driving distance (this link has a map of the range of the eclipse), and aren’t already planning on seeing the eclipse, allow me to urge you to do so. An annular eclipse is so much more beautiful than a full eclipse; the quality of the light is such that the entire world seems dipped in silver, shimmering and dancing.

Unless you have the proper equipment (welder’s goggles, eclipse glasses, or a properly filtered scope of some sort), you can’t (or rather, shouldn’t) look directly at the sun. With an annular eclipse, you really don’t want to, in my opinion. Instead, find a spot in the woods, where the leaves are sparse enough to let light through, but thick enough that the light comes through in patches. This is where you want to be for the eclipse.

It will get dim, but not really dark, almost as if the sun had been blocked by a cloud. But while a cloud will diffuse the light, the eclipse transforms it. There are not beams of light; there are circlets, shining rings. As the wind moves the leaves, the circlets dance, coming together, drawing apart, larger and smaller depending on how high the leaves are. It is stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful.

And then it is gone. And won’t be back for over a decade. The last one in the US was in 1994, on May 10th–I remember it well. It was a big day. Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president of South Africa. John Wayne Gacy was executed. I remember both, but I remember them because of the eclipse.

What I’m saying is, this is a memorable and worthwhile event. Go see it if you possibly can.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    I do, and I am.

  2. 2
    Cuttlefish

    I envy you.

  3. 3
    Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    Stupid sun, not eclipsing where i can see it. *grumble, grumble*

  4. 4
    shouldbeworking

    The sun is going because gawd no longer considers America to be be special anymore. Her light will shine upon the true promised land.

    Chapter 1, verse 1 of the Blessed Ramblings of saint Mike of Canmore and of the Moose Pasture.

  5. 5
    thunk: y'all know ageism is a thing?

    I will only be able to see the partial stages, sadly.

  6. 6
    carpenterman

    Alas, wrong coast. And the weather is supposed to be nice and clear, too. Blast!
    I remember when I learned that the orbital plane of the Earth and the Moon are not the same plane. The book I was reading said, “Otherwise, there would be an eclipse every month.” It was one of those “Oh… of *course*!” moments.

  7. 7
    Cuttlefish

    Ha! Me, too, carpenterman!

  8. 8
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    Me too.

    Neener neener

  9. 9
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    Or maybe not. Can’t they schedule these things at a decent time of day!

  10. 10
    Johnny Vector

    As it happens, I get to see it Monday morning. Sure was a convenient time for JAXA to have an Astro-H design meeting in Tokyo, dontcha think?

    Only now the weather forecast is falling apart, so I might see nothing but dimmer clouds.

  11. 11
    Crudely Wrott

    For safe and inexpensive viewing of solar eclipses, or to see sunspots, take two pieces of cardboard about a foot square.
    Cut a hole about one inch wide in the center of one piece and tape a piece of tin foil over it. Put a tiny hole in the center of the foil.
    Tape a sheet of white paper to the other piece of cardboard. You now have the elements of a pin-hole camera.
    Stand with the sun behind you, hold the pin-hole half up near your shoulder with the pin-hole about eye high. Hold the white paper half out in front of you and let the sun shine through the pin-hole onto the paper. A bit of fiddling with the distance between the two pieces will allow you to focus a nice sharp image of the sun on the white paper. Hint: you can practice with any bright light source like a lamp or a street light.
    The best way to build and use this pin-hole viewer is to get some kids together and let them do the actual work while you pass out advice and compliments and answers to a slew of questions. An additional benefit is that several sets of eyes get to see at the same time.
    Trust me, this is a great solar observatory similar to Cuttle’s leaf camera; cheap, safe, accommodating many eyes and the little ones will have learned how to do it themselves.

  12. 12
    Warren

    I went; it was a twofer. The most reasonably accessible site for me was the south rim of the Grand Canyon, about a 3-hr drive.

    I used a #11 welder’s glass on a 200 mm lens (Nikon DSLR) to get these:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.422276027797665.100244.100000458153698&type=3&l=62fb047519

    …and this is plain old canyon porn:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.422272947797973.100243.100000458153698&type=3&l=b4f5b70b40

  13. 13
    Johnny Vector

    Welp, the clouds moved in in Tokyo, but then they thinned out enough to work as a lovely neutral density filter. Here’s the video I took. No filters, just the clouds. Well, a UV filter, but nothing else.

    https://vimeo.com/42543544

  14. 14
    Cuttlefish

    Johnny V, that is some sweet video! Warren, those are some of the better pics I have seen.

  15. 15
    drksky

    You want once-in-a-lifetime? There’s a Venus transit on June 5th that’s observable from most of the US.

    Oh yeah, and August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse that crosses most of the US. Max totality happens at the tippy tip of souther Illinois a mere three hours drive for me. Can’t wait!

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