Category Archives: astronomy

Umbraphile

Once again the sun used its 93 million mile cue stick to line up the moon with the continental US and I was on the other end to see the magnificent results.

My earlier blog post recalling the 1979 eclipse which I saw in Winnipeg, Canada has gotten consistent traffic, and quite a bit more in the weeks leading up to August 21st. On a personal level, I had been doing my best to convince people to do everything possible to situate themselves within the band of totality, which in my case began barely 10 miles from my house. I likened settling for a nearly-total partial eclipse to going to see a great concert but just standing in the parking lot instead.

My initial ideas for watching The Great American Eclipse started out with Washington, MO, but then changed to St. Clair, MO, which changed to Desoto, MO, then changed to Hematite, MO…when it became apparent that we were going to have a huge influx of people (and traffic), we eventually looked closer to home. We “invited ourselves” to our friends’ home in New Melle, MO, where we would have ~1:49 of totality. Both Mo and K took the day off, and we were also pleased that many our our Sunday School class also planned to attend.

We left early the morning of the eclipse, not knowing what traffic would be like. It turns out our fears were unfounded, as traffic at least in the direction we travelled was not affected at all. As we all began arriving, our hosts the Pikes and their dog Moses made us feel at home with a large spread of breakfast goodies supplemented with drink and food items we’d all brought to contribute as well.

We flipped between the NASA channel and local channels on the TV up until we had first contact (about 11:48 AM) and we began putting our various eclipse glasses, welder’s goggles, and pinhole boxes to work. We were quite pleased to have only a light cloud cover — certainly not enough to be a problem, although it was pretty humid and in the low 90s out by that point.

While waiting for totality, we paid attention to the changing shadows, and the light quality dimmed, dropping noticeably in stages the last few minutes before second contact.


Ava and Moses check out the crescent shadows on the sidewalk

Totality was new to everyone but me at our gathering, so there was quite a few shouts of amazement as the diamond ring faded to a bright ring and I reminded everyone that the eclipse glasses could come off, with the corona looking surprisingly as predicted. Using what I’d learned since the 1979 eclipse, I quickly went to my binoculars (I played it safe by not waiting until later when it got closer to third contact), which showed a nice red glow of prominences across the “top” of the sun. In addition, I’d learned that the five seconds before and after totality were still within safe limits for the naked eye, so as I warned everyone when I noticed the beginning of a diamond ring following third contact, I took in a couple seconds of it before donning my eclipse glasses. We were told that temps dropped ~9° throughout the eclipse. We also noticed the cicadas and crickets did in fact chime in for a while. Moses on the other hand didn’t seem to care one way or another.


intrepid eclipse watchers

The one regret I have is not having a working digital camera ready to take along, so I don’t have any personal photos of the eclipse itself, but like my first eclipse, I’m not likely to forget what it looked like. I’m pretty sure that all of us will want to try see the 2024 eclipse (not quite as conveniently located, east of us in Illinois) as a result of our experience with this time around. I know I do.

New Horizons

Back on January 19, 2006 — what seems like ages ago — the New Horizons probe was launched. Fellow listener SpaceC at StreamingSoundtracks.com happened to be a launch worker at the time, and she posted a beautiful photograph of New Horizons just as it was leaving Earth:
New Horizons
This has been the wallpaper background image on every home and work PC, laptop, and cellphone that I’ve had since that date. Way to go, NASA!

Joe Morgan Just Doesn’t Get Vangelis’ “Albedo 0.39”

Joe Morgan: The guy that wrote “Albedo 0.39” can’t teach me about the Earth. That is what I meant. If you haven’t been on the planet, why should I listen to your song? How can that person teach me about the Earth? I learn plenty about the Earth everyday. Every Sunday night I learn something. The Earth changes almost every day. But I’m still not going to listen to “Albedo 0.39” or songs written by people who haven’t been on the planet or really experienced what goes on in life on the Earth. *

* Okay, that’s been paraphrased; Joe said that about Moneyball, not “Albedo 0.39”, but since it’s Music Friday at WGOM, well, hey! Just reminiscing about the song and all the “stats” in it had me thinking that obviously Joe Morgan wouldn’t care for the song at all.
Vangelis was a favorite of “my group” in college, and “Albedo 0.39” is a nice little spoken word track.

Canada Flashback – Winnipeg Total Solar Eclipse

In honor of the January 15th African annular eclipse, I thought it apropos to flashback to the only total solar eclipse I’ve seen in person, the February 26, 1979 eclipse in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

About a dozen of us, all junior and senior high school boys, and very loosely chaperoned by our Physics teacher, made the three hour drive north and spent the night in a Winnipeg hotel.  In our room, I remember Alan Parsons Project’s Pyramid and (naturally) Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cassettes playing in the background.  Probably some cards were played, and possibly we actually slept, too.

On the big morning, we set up near the Winnipeg airport, along with a couple other cars of people also parked along the barren road there. 

Dono don’s his snow gear as others monitor the eclipse’s progress

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(Not) Seeing Spots

The sun has been in the midst of the deepest solar minimum in several decades, with long stretches of days with no sunspot activity at all.  Sunspot 1029, one of the largest sunspots in years, emerged this week as the newest member of sunspot cycle 24…and yet, thanks to the St. Louis’ wettest October on record, I had no opportunity to see it in person.  Through the middle of this week, we were already >7″ over the normal precipitation for October, and had set the record even before the current latest storm.

sunspot 1029
sunspot 1029

On the fateful day of September 11, 2001, I had taken the day off from work to speak at K’s science class at Harris Elementary School.  (It seemed like a good excuse to stay home on my birthday.)  As you can see here, that was during the heyday of sunspot cycle 23’s maximum.  I have a pair of solar filters (inserts from one of my Astronomy Magazines, something like this) that I brought along, and the kids were thrilled to be able to see sunspots directly with their own eyes.

Needless to say, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the return of the bigger sunspots like 1029, and it goes without saying that I’m also anxiously awaiting being able to see the sun, period!

Potpourri

Well, I’ve successfully migrated over from Blogger to here in WordPress. Blogger was nice and simple, but trying to format yesterday’s post without acres of vertical whitespace was impossible, and I was already somewhat familiar with WordPress after creating many posts at WGOM for the SBG Library. I’m not entirely happy with the template yet, so that may evolve for a while.

The sun is in its deepest solar minimum in the last 100 years. I’ve been hoping to break out the solar viewers and monitor sunspots again, but its been many months since that was possible. The next few will probably feature only small sunspots as well, which are too small to view without magnification.

I received a fistfull of Twins cards from Matt at Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius as the back end of a trade I made with him.  There were a couple dozen of pre-2000 commons that I already had, and several post-2000 commons that I probably have (still haven’t checked), but looks like a lot of new ones to sleeve and bind.

Getting back to formatting again, I need to spend some more quality time on the genealogy website again.  I still have a slug of Swedish records for my side of the family, and I haven’t done much of anything on Mo’s side in quite some time.  Meanwhile, the documentation that I have posted needs to be added to my Family Tree Maker database so that I can file away the piles of pages on my desk.