Can You Say TOTALITY?

I have been busier than a six legged dog a scratching fleas, but…I made time to gather up my telescopes, binoculars, eclipse glasses, umbrellas, cameras, snacks, coolers, lawn chairs, then load up the fam damily even if they did not want to go, picked up a straggler, (a friend of one of the boys) and drove the hour and a half drive to Eddyville Ky. for the Total Eclipse of the Sun!

Eddyville was darn close to the centerline of totality, and NOT one of the big towns garnering all of the attention, (and droves of people by my reasoning) so it seemed like a good spot to go.

We rolled into Eddyville snooping for a good place to setup, I saw a sign about some city park, figured that might be a good place to try. We got there only to be met by a park employee with lights flashing away on the park truck, they were not allowing eclipse goers to access the park. I mean they shut down a city park! I guess they knew we were coming… 😉 The nice lady handed us a printed map showing the “approved” viewing locations in Eddyville. Sheesh! I looked the map over, they were malls, a water park, and other places with concrete/blacktop to setup on, and my goal was grass. It was a blistering 95 degrees today and with the kind of humidity we get ’round here you really don’t want to be spending time on a blacktop lot for any reasonable amount of time.

So we backtracked a ways, I remembered seeing a sign previously indicating a river access point for the launching of boats. (We were right along the Cumberland River) We got down there and first thing we saw were a handfull of other eclipse enthusiasts setup. So I pulled in. I drove around to where a couple of folks were setup and took a parking spot. The parking lot was paved, but fortune leaned my way, right at the edge of the pavement was freshly cut grass. It took a good while to get everything unloaded and arranged, but we managed.

I set up my ED 80, equipped with a solar filter, and mounted on the Celestron ASGT mount. The mount is driven and keeps up with the motion of the sky, but you have to set it up just so for the tracking to work right. Try as I might, I nudged and fudged and fiddled but never got that mount to track as it should. Which meant I had to tweak it along the entire time I took pics. I also setup another 90mm achromat refractor in front of a whiteboard. This was a projection rig that could be safely observed with no glasses or other eye protection.

I took some time to chat with my new neighbors, the people right next to us was a mother from Wisconsin, and her two sons from Chicago. They had other family on the way, and they did indeed make it for the event. Just on the other side of them was an older gent from Indiana, and he had his mother with him. He had an 8″ Schmidt Cassegrain setup for solar views and pic taking. I also met another astronomy nerd who hailed from New Hampshire. He won the ‘who drove the farthest for the eclipse award!’ At least among those I met.

I took a few pics the day before as a test run. This is one:

DSC02761

It was hot. Damn hot. I was fiddling with the scope mount and missed first contact. Dammit. I caught this as my first pic of the day today:

DSC02775

There was a persistent haze in the sky, and a few wispy clouds. The haze made it difficult to achieve good focus. Any upcoming pics that look whiter will be suffering from the haze. The haze pretty much was consistent.

DSC02784

DSC02797

DSC02808

DSC02822

DSC02837

DSC02849

This next pic was my last. My ding dang battery died! I had another battery but it refused to take a charge, and I thought I would maybe get through this event, I sadly did not. The wife got a decent pic through her handheld camera, I will try to get it up soon.

DSC02854

Once totality hit it was like someone hit the light switch. It got dark! We could see Venus to our right. And Jupiter to our lower left. I had binoculars on hand for totality because when totality strikes you can look directly at it with binoculars and it was spectacular! The corona was glowing brilliantly. We could also see Mercury in the same binocular view. Everyone in my group got a good look with binoculars and we oohed and ahhed so much, I felt bad for my immediate neighbors, they had no binoculars, so I walked over and shared the binoculars with them. They were as stunned with the view as we were. I got the binocs back and took another good look, as I did the eclipse was seconds away from ending. I actually saw through the binoculars Baileys Beads. Baileys Beads is a well known phenomenon that resembles 4-5 bright pearl like beads strung out along of the freshly exposed limb. Just a mind blowing sight, and then it was way too bad to look at anymore as the suns glow was bright enough to hurt my eyes, I had to look away. It was over.

Hey there is another total eclipse not far from here in 7 years. I am making plans…  🙂

Advertisements

Partial Solar Eclipse For Most Of N. America Tomorrow Evening

I will be spending much of today preparing for the eclipse tomorrow. (10/23/14) Here in W. Tn. we should see around 40% coverage, just less than half of the sun eaten by our moon. I am stoked for this event, for two reasons. One the forecast calls for clear skies, and two I am just that much of a nerdy science loving geek.

The eclipse will begin right around 5:00 PM CST.

Standard boilerplate warning. Do not look at the eclipse directly. Do not look at the sun with binoculars or a telescope without proper filtration, unless burning the eyes out of your sockets sounds like a good time. I have heard that a welders helmet is safe, and not safe, so that one I would call risky. Old cheap telescope kits used to offer a solar viewing eyepiece, they should not be used if you have them as they have been proven likely to explode, that sounds fun.

The only way to properly view the sun, or an eclipse, is to use a telescope or binoculars with proper modern filtration. More specifically with either a Mylar filter or a white light glass filter. Or you can use a decent quality telescope as a projector. Setup a white board, and let the telescope project the image upon the board.

There are Ha (hydrogen alpha) telescopes built specifically for viewing the sun, they are the cats meow, but terribly expensive. I wish I had one…

There are also solar viewing glasses on the market that allow you to look at the sun safely.

Then there is the option of building a cheap solar viewing box, with a shoe box and some tin foil. Instructions abound on the internet. When I was a young lad, there was a total eclipse where I lived. Our school teacher had us all bring in supplies to build one of these, and I was able to experience my first total eclipse with it. It was an amazing experience I still remember to this day. When the sun goes dark the birds and critters go quiet. There is an eerie calm I will never forget. The box worked like a charm.

Here is a link to one such solar viewer made from a box, although the one I had as a kid, we just cut a viewing hole in the top of the box, and did not stick our head in the box…?

http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/make-pinhole-projector.html

Another one here, remember the longer the box, the bigger the sun appears through the viewing hole.

http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how.html

I will be setting up with two telescopes. One a 90mm achromat* refractor by way of the projection view upon a whiteboard, the other a nice quality 80mm apochromatic** refractor telescope using a full aperture white light filter. I hope to get many pictures. I used this same setup a while back for the Venus transit with pretty decent results. (I should dig up those old pics and post a few)

Most of N. America will experience this event. While not as spectacular as a total eclipse, a partial is still pretty cool, so get properly rigged up and go out there to see it! I am sure it will be live streamed as well, the internet is good for stuff like that, but there is nothing quite like actuall experiencing events like this.

Oh…in 2017 there will be a total eclipse of the sun. The maximum duration of this eclipse will be an hours drive from here. Guess where I will be?  🙂  The eclipse will be viewable from where I live, but I can gain precious seconds by taking a short drive. I can’t wait.

* Achromat refers to a refracting telescopes converging of color. An achromat focuses most, but not all, of the colors in the spectrum to the same focal point. Plainly speaking you will get a violet fringe on bright objects.

** Apochromat is a refractor lens designed to more adequetly focus the spectrum, reducing or eliminating this violet/purple fringing. The apo requires much more work to get done properly, resulting in a higher cost/ better peformance ratio.