Easy Like Sunday: Eclipse Day Preview

The anticipation is great. It’s been called the celestial event of the year, and more. And, it begins in a matter of hours.

Its transcontinental path across America is most rare. Not rare is the zone of totality, about 67 miles wide. Outside the zone, a partial eclipse. For example, Grand Teton National Park, lies within the zone of totality but its immediate neighbor to the north, Yellowstone National Park, will experience a 99% partial eclipse. While the experience should be the same whether in Grand Teton or Yellowstone, it has been suggested it is not. Both places of nature’s grandeur will be dark regardless.

click on the map to view the interactive Google eclipse map*

If the plan is to directly observe the eclipse, partial or total, you will need to be properly equipped. The eclipse glasses or handheld viewers should be certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 standard. Many reputable outlets have already sold out their stock. One alternative is to make a DIY cardboard pinhole viewer. The pinhole viewer does work; it is a matter of practicing in the hours before the eclipse. Practice can also be done using a lamp as a substitute for the sun.

The other direct view methods are a telescope or a welder’s lens. For a telescope, a sun filter that attaches to the eyepiece is needed or a sun projection screen. If it is a welder’s lens, a shade 14 lens should be used according to NASA. Anything less does not provide the necessary eye protection. Most welding supply stores have said a shade 14 lens is a special order item.

ready: 400X Jason refractor telescope and kitty station

If the plan also includes to photograph the eclipse, partial or total, you will need to have the proper filtering lens for your camera. A sun filter should be attached to the end of the zoom lens. The stacking of neutral density filters along with polarizing filters will not protect the camera sensor from damage. With the camera essentially turned into a refractor telescope, increasing the optical zoom will decrease its light gathering ability. It will require a judicious use of zoom, ISO speed and aperture to capture a decent image.

The wild card in viewing the eclipse is weather. In general, the forecast is expected to be good to fair. Along the Colorado Front Range, we’re expected to have sky conditions featuring thin, high-level cloudiness. In Casper, WY, the closest point of totality, they are expected to have similar sky conditions. The level of cloudiness maybe enough to provide a momentary glimpse of the sun without protection.

Regardless of approach, a total solar eclipse of this kind should not be missed. If you watch online or television, mute the sound. What matters is your sense of marvel and experience, not the commentator’s.

Note

If you click on the map above, you will redirected to Google’s Interactive Eclipse Map. Combined with their satellite street mapping, you are able to project the eclipse, partial or total, to your street address. At our house, we’re expected to have a partial eclipse of 88.892% at maximum. The shadows are expected to be similar to an early dusk twilight. The eclipse will begin at 10:23:40.7, reaching its maximum at 11:47:55.0, and ending at 13:15:59.4.

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Two Weeks: To Be Eclipsed

On August 21, a total solar eclipse will cross over North America, from coast to coast. What makes this more of a rare event, the path of totality will be entirely over continental United States. The narrow band will stretch from Salem, OR to Charleston, SC. A partial eclipse will be seen outside the band of totality. How much of a partial eclipse will be seen by those outside the band of totality is determined by how close they are to the band.

eclipse map courtesy of NASA

In Colorado, for example, the partial eclipse will range from 85% (NM border) to 95% (WYO border). The last total eclipse through the western states was in October 1978. At that time, the partial eclipse was around 85%. In terms of light, it was similar to what one would expect at the beginning of evening twilight with longer shadows. With the coming eclipse, observers in Colorado should expect the same. If it is overcast, it should be darker – with the level of darkness determined by the thickness of the overcast.

Seeing with my eyes

Under any circumstance, do not observe the sun without proper eye protection. If you choose to use eclipse glasses or viewers, it must be ISO-12312-2 compliant (meaning it meets the minimum safety standard to directly view the sun). The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has developed list of reputable vendors, which can be found here.

The low cost (free), DIY approach is to make a pinhole viewer, consisting of a cardboard box (smaller the better) and an unused piece of bright white, multipurpose paper. Make a pinhole in the cardboard box, the white piece of paper is the projection screen. Before the eclipse, practice lining up the cardboard box over the paper. What you are looking for is the brightest amount of light coming through the pinhole.

DIY: pinhole eclipse viewer parts with spatial analysis test

If you have a telescope, there is a good chance it came with a sun filter for your eyepiece. Line up your telescope without using your finderscope, which is fairly easy. With the sun filter in your eyepiece, line up your telescope before the eclipse begins. If your telescope came with a solar projection screen instead of a filter, it is the same process like using a pinhole viewer.

The super-safe way of following the eclipse is to watch NASA, online or their TV channel (DISH Network and DirecTV). You’ll also receive a science lesson on the side.

Photographing the solar eclipse

Photographs of a solar eclipse cannot be beat. If that is your plan, the plan should be nearly complete in terms of equipment and practice. If not, Canon USA has assembled a reference guide to photograph the eclipse – from an introduction to eclipse photography to equipment to site preparation.

Eclipse Extra: Tonight – Partial Lunar Eclipse

Whenever the Earth, the sun and moon line up for an eclipse, on occasion, the eclipse will come as a pair. Tonight, during the full moon phase, a partial lunar eclipse will occur. The partial eclipse will come around sunset for those in eastern Europe and Africa, and before sunrise on August 8th in the Far East and Australia. In North America, no partial lunar eclipse will be seen.

Online Resources

 

Fire In The Sky: Super Moon

With the heavy, smoky haze in the sky from the West Fork Fire Complex in southwestern Colorado, this year’s super moon would certainly take on a different appearance. Fortunately, it did not disappoint.

 

Saturday evening

Along with the smoke, there were some clouds passing through the south-southeastern sky where the moon would be rising. It wouldn’t be the smoky haze obscuring the moon, but the clouds instead. For roughly 20 minutes, the moon was hidden behind a patch of clouds. After the last batch of clouds passed, the moon had a clear sky to shine brightly.

about 30 minutes after moonrise

 

about 35 minutes after moonrise

 

moon hidden by the passing clouds

 

the last clouds passing across the moon’s face

 

the moon shining in a clear, but hazy sky

 

Sunday evening

There wasn’t much of the smoky haze in the sky. Seeing an orange-reddish tinted moon was unlikely. The cloud cover, however, was rather extensive. The sky, though, started to clear quickly in the south-southeastern sky before sunset.  With plenty of clear sky, observing the moon would be very good.

about an hour after moonrise

 

about an hour, 5 minutes after moonrise

 

With fire conditions expected to worsen over the course of this week, it’s likely the moon will have an orange-reddish tint as the moon begins its journey through the waning phases. How much of the moon we’ll see will depend upon the amount of smoke put into the air by the West Fork Fire. Last Thursday night, the moon wasn’t seen at all due the dense smoke layer that had migrated over the region.

It’s the Moon

With cloudy evenings, it hasn’t been easy to do much viewing through the telescope – let alone seeing the moon. But this night, during the Memorial Day weekend, the sky was clear enough to see the moon – a waning gibbous moon …

 

 

 

In The Clouds

The overcast was rather heavy. Occasionally, the sun would peer through the cloud cover. When it did, you were able to see the solar disk quite nicely.

 

 

 

 

Always, use a proper solar filter lens when viewing or photographing the sun.

Man on the Moon

Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon, and today marks the 40th anniversary of the third and final walk of that mission. Since that last walk, we observe and admire the moon from the ground …

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully, one day, we’ll return to the moon.

 

To read more on the Apollo 17 mission, please read here and here.