Stories tagged solar eclipse

Partial solar eclipse sequence: October 23, 2014
Partial solar eclipse sequence: October 23, 2014Courtesy Mark Ryan
Setting sun in partial eclipse
Setting sun in partial eclipseCourtesy Mark ryan
Some images from Thursday eclipse taken from the east shore of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, MN. The sequence runs from first contact to maximum eclipse. An added attraction were the large sunspots visible on the sun's surface. Click on images to view larger size.

A total solar eclipse was visible across the extreme north of Australia yesterday giving residents, tourists, and eclipse-chasing scientists the thrill of a lifetime. Here’s a timelapse and informational video of the event. Total solar eclipses occur about twice each year but since the Earth is 70 percent water, they often happen in remote, unpopulated locations. But remember folks, in less than five years, the Moon’s shadow will sweep across the mid-section of the United States when a total solar eclipse takes place on August 21, 2017. Whatever you do, do not miss it. It is truly something amazing to witness live.

May
21
2012

Early stage of eclipse: the greenish tint is caused by shooting through welder's glass #14.
Early stage of eclipse: the greenish tint is caused by shooting through welder's glass #14.Courtesy Mark Ryan
I'm happy to report that the clouds cleared out just in time this weekend to watch the Sun and Moon do their little dance together in the western sky. I went to eastern shore Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to watch, as did a number of other people. The best views took place later on as the sun lowered near the horizon. I brought along a piece of welder's glass #14 which attracted several curious passersby who ask if they could use it to view the sun. Other people brought along their own homemade devices to view the event. Overall, it turned into a rather nice little eclipse party. Viewing the eclipse: Two spectators use a an old printer box with a pinhole punched in it to watch the event.
Viewing the eclipse: Two spectators use a an old printer box with a pinhole punched in it to watch the event.Courtesy Mark Ryan

The eclipsed sun
The eclipsed sunCourtesy Mark Ryan

Closer view of the eclipse
Closer view of the eclipseCourtesy Mark Ryan

Double view: Binoculars worked well in projecting the crescent sun's image onto a white surface.
Double view: Binoculars worked well in projecting the crescent sun's image onto a white surface.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Another eclipse enthusiast checks out the view
Another eclipse enthusiast checks out the viewCourtesy Mark Ryan
Another view
Another viewCourtesy Mark Ryan
Look at that!: A family stopped by to view the eclipse through welder's glass.
Look at that!: A family stopped by to view the eclipse through welder's glass.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Viewing the eclipse: A helmet isn't necessary to view a solar eclipse, but proper eye protection against the sun's rays in essential.
Viewing the eclipse: A helmet isn't necessary to view a solar eclipse, but proper eye protection against the sun's rays in essential.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Makeshift viewing device: This woman made an eclipse viewer by poking a pinhole in a paper bag.
Makeshift viewing device: This woman made an eclipse viewer by poking a pinhole in a paper bag.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Eclipsed setting sun
Eclipsed setting sunCourtesy Mark Ryan
Kayak and eclipse
Kayak and eclipseCourtesy Mark Ryan

May
18
2012

Annular solar eclipse sequence: Spain, 2005
Annular solar eclipse sequence: Spain, 2005Courtesy Cestomano
A rare opportunity for many of us astrogeeks takes place this Sunday (May 20, 2012) when a good portion of North America will experience an annular solar eclipse. The celestial mechanics start around 7pm CDT when the Moon begins to cross in front of the face of the Sun. Because the Moon's orbit is near its apogee with the Earth (that is at its farthest distance) it will appear smaller and won’t cover the entire solar disk (as it does in a total eclipse), but instead, a ring of sunlight will remain exposed at maximum eclipse. Here in Minnesota we won’t get that effect as only 80-90 of the sun will be covered from our vantage point, but since it starts so late in the day we should be able to watch the sun set in partial eclipse, which should look kind of cool. Let’s hope the weather cooperates. The East Coast of the US won’t see the eclipse because it will start there after sunset.

It’s best not to look directly at the Sun with the naked eye during this type of eclipse as even a sliver of sunlight can cause damage, but there are ways of viewing a solar eclipse safely.

My favorite phenomena during the partial phases of a solar eclipse are the odd shadows created by the leaves of trees and bushes. Each dappled shadow is an image of the crescent sun.

MORE INFO
NASA annular eclipse page
Mr. Eclipse info site

Jul
20
2009

Super Solar Ring: ...but remember, don't look directly at it or you WILL GO BLIND!!!
Super Solar Ring: ...but remember, don't look directly at it or you WILL GO BLIND!!!Courtesy Incredible India

Get ready, because one of Newton’s laws is about to be tested. A little thing called gravity is going into question during the total solar eclipse on July 22nd.

I’m sure most of you have heard of or know what a solar eclipse is. If not, here’s a refresher: “A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon lies between the Sun and Earth, casting its shadow on our planet. Depending on the location of the observer on the Earth’s surface, the observer may see a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse or none at all. If the observer is lucky enough to be located in a position where the moon’s umbra contacts the Earth they will witness a total solar eclipse of the sun.”

Unfortunately for those of us in St. Paul, the only way for us to see the total solar eclipse would be to buy a one-way ticket to the eastern hemisphere. The path of the eclipse will start in eastern India and end about 2,000 miles south of Hawaii. During which it will be visible for nearly 6 minutes in China, and that’s where Newton steps in (not literally of course).

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences are about to test the controversial theory that gravity drops slightly during a total eclipse. Originally observed in 1954, the French physicist Maurice Allais noticed erratic behavior in a swinging pendulum when the eclipse passed over Paris. The shift in direction of the pendulum’s swing suggests a sudden change in gravitational pull. Though tests have occurred since, nothing has been conclusive.

The best chance to prove the gravity anomaly is this Wednesday during the longest eclipse duration of the 21st Century. This is why Chinese geophysicists are preparing six different sites with an array of highly sensitive instruments to take gravitational readings during the total eclipse. The head geophysicist Tang Keyun states, "If our equipment operates correctly, I believe we have a chance to say the anomaly is true beyond all doubt."

Aug
21
2007

August 28, 2007 Lunar Eclipse: Courtesy Fred Espenak, NASA
August 28, 2007 Lunar Eclipse: Courtesy Fred Espenak, NASA
A week from today a lunar eclipse will take place that will be viewable at least in part from practically all of North and South America. But you’ll have to get up early to view it.

On August 28, at 3:51am CDT, the Moon will begin to enter the Earth’s umbra in a total lunar eclipse that will last about an hour and a half. Mid-eclipse will take place at 5:37am CDT and the Moon will begin to exit the Earth’s shadow at 6:22am CDT.

The totality phase will be preceded and followed by partial phases that aren’t as easy to see since the Moon will be passing through the penumbra where the sunlight isn't completely blocked out. Viewers west of the Rockies will be able to see the entire totality phase, but the rest of the country will only see the beginnings of it as the Moon will set before it exits the Earth’s umbral shadow. South America will experience it in the same way, and China, some of Russia, India and Australia will see it as the Moon rises in that part of the world.

If for some reason you don’t want to get up that early to see this wonderful astronomical event, Larry Koehn has a great eclipse website with animations of this and other eclipses.

Which brings me to the other eclipse I wanted to mention.

I may be jumping the gun a bit on this next one, but it’s never too early to make plans. Exactly ten years from today’s date on August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse will track across the entire mid-section of the United States diagonally from Washington state to South Carolina.

It will be the first total solar eclipse viewable from the mainland United States since 1979 when the path of totality swept across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and into Canada. I implore you to do whatever you can to position yourself inside the path of totality.

I watched the 1979 eclipse near my home in Minneapolis where it was only a partial eclipse with 91% of the sun was covered. As maximum eclipse approached, it presented some nice effects: the light quality began to take on an eerie steely tone, the air temperature dropped noticeably, and the branches of nearby trees created tiny crescent-shaped images of the sun on the ground. But as fascinating as the effects were, it was still only a partial eclipse. I knew I had made a mistake not driving 300 miles to Winnipeg to get into the path of totality.

Writer Annie Dillard made the best analogy between viewing a partial and a total solar eclipse in her essay “Total Eclipse”. I’m paraphrasing here, but Dillard said watching a partial solar eclipse versus watching a total solar eclipse is the same as flying in an airplane versus falling out of one. She’s not far off.

Total Solar Eclipse, July 11, 1991: Photo by Mark Ryan
Total Solar Eclipse, July 11, 1991: Photo by Mark Ryan
My brother and I made sure we got ourselves to Mexico when the next nearby total eclipse occurred on July 11, 1991. We flew into Puerto Vallarta where we hooked up with an expedition led by a scientist from the US Naval Observatory, and rode with them an hour north to the seaside village of Sayulita which was situated about 2.5 miles inside the southern edge of the moon’s shadow. It was on that isolated beach where I finally saw a total solar eclipse. And it was something I’ll never forget.

To make a long story short, seeing a total eclipse was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to describe what you feel during totality, when the constant sun suddenly disappears, and the invisible corona suddenly becomes visible as a gossamer, living fabric extending out from the sun into space. Once you’ve seen one, you’ll want to see many more.

In ten years just about everyone and their brother in the USA will have a chance to witness nature’s greatest light show. I suggest you begin planning for the August 21, 2017 eclipse now.

MORE ECLIPSE INFO

Fred Espenak’s Lunar Eclipse Primer
Fred Espenak’s Solar Eclipse Primer
Chart for August 28, 2007 lunar eclipse