Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Annular Solar Eclipse

Unless you are nocturnal, you no doubt realize that yesterday many folks on Earth were treated to a very spectacular Annular Solar Eclipse.  The reason that this eclipse was annular (coming from the Latin, annulus, meaning ring) is that the moon was at it's furthest point from earth in its elliptical orbit when it passed between us and the Sun.  This was a very beautiful event to witness from start to finish, and I was fortunate to be working with my colleague Adam Block as we conducted a very special eclipse program at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter.  We set up multiple telescopes providing guests views in both white light and hydrogen alpha, as well as providing everyone with specialized eclipse viewers.  While we had about 80 individuals on top of Mount Lemmon viewing the eclipse, we had literally thousands who watched a live stream of the eclipse over the internet.   We will do this again for the Transit of Venus on June 5th, and if you would like the web address, drop me an email.  I took the image at left near the time of greatest eclipse (6:38 PM local MST).

I made a white light sketch of the Sun prior to the eclipse to note the days spots, and then drew in the approximate maximum eclipse.  I was quite busy keeping an eye on our live feed as well as entertaining guests, so my sketch is truly an approximation as I lost track of which part of the Sun's disc was not eclipsed.  You can see in the sketch that we experienced about 87% of the Sun, including all the sunspots eclipsed by the moon.  Click the sketch to enlarge it.

I took many pictures with my trusty point and shoot camera and you can see a slide show of them at the bottom of the post.  For those of you suffering with devices that will not correctly display the slide show, I am pasting a few highlights here.  Below are shadow images of the eclipse, cast on our domes as the sunlight filtered through the pine trees.

 Here are some images of our guests enjoying themselves.

And of course sunset was spectacular!  There are wildfires to the north and the smoke attenuated the brightness of the Sun just enough that we could view the eclipsing Sun set naked was a beautiful magenta color and at the end, looked like a shark fin swimming on the horizon.  It was awesome to hear the guests break out in spontaneous applause when the Sun finally set.

And at last, here is the slide show!

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