All posts by Chap Percival

Neat Eclipse Day Activity

Neat Eclipse Day Activity

Even if you have eclipse glasses, here is an activity that will make memories for you and those with you during the eclipse. This works for the partial phases.

Get a sheet of cardboard and write a message in big letters. Take a pin and poke holes along the letters. You can test this out ahead of eclipse day. Go outside, if the sun is shining. Take the cardboard and a white sheet. Lay the white sheet on the ground. Hold the lettered cardboard up and let the sun shine through the holes onto the sheet on the ground. Each hole will project the image of the sun. Today, this is round but during the eclipse, it will be crescent shaped. Have kids write their names and poke holes. You can use anything with holes to do this as well, like a colander. There are downloadable eclipse messages like below on my website, goseetheeclipse.com and the download tab. I also have them with the state names.

The clarity of the projected image will change if you hold the image further from the sheet or if you make the hole larger. Experiment and see what you come up with.

LIBYA 2006

LIBYA

 The March 29, 2006 Total Solar Eclipse traveled through northwest Africa, turned slightly east emerging from the Libyan coast, crossing the Mediterranean into Turkey. I had read that traveling in Africa is usually more difficult than in Turkey, so began researching trips there.

I had settled on a coastal location as a viewing site, when I came across a brochure for an eclipse cruise that piqued my interest. It advertised viewing the eclipse from the Sahara Desert in Libya. Now 2005-2006 was a brief window when the U.S. State Department allowed Americans to travel to Libya and since the duration of totality was greater there than Turkey, I figured I should try it. (My wife and I thoroughly enjoy cruising.) A group consisting of my wife and I, my brother and his wife, a friend of theirs, a former student, and three teachers arrived at Genoa, Italy to board the MSC Sinfonia for a 12 day Mediterranean cruise, including stops at places I had only read about: Naples, Syracuse, Alexandria, Tobruk (I had actually never read about, indeed, never heard of Tobruk,) Tripoli, Malta, and Salerno. It was over my school’s spring break so I only missed a week of school. Man was it worth it.

On this trip, I was not in charge. I did not have to arrange anything for the group. I was a participant only and it felt good. There were over 3000 passengers on board, all there for the same reason as I, to see the eclipse. Once again I was in astronomy nerd heaven. There were daily seminars on eclipses with several big name astronomers sharing their expertise. The ship was equipped with stabilizers so even at sea solar telescopes were set up on the deck for people to peer through.

This was my brother’s first eclipse and I recall him making a point of telling me of his discussions with people on the ship who knew how many total minutes they had been in the moon’s umbra, the full shadow, in the many eclipses they had viewed. I thought, “Yeah, I know that. No big deal.” (It’s 14 minutes, 28 seconds)

The weather was great for the entire trip. Spring in the Mediterranean was delightful. I did many firsts (and lasts) like ride a camel, see the pyramids, travel on a funiculare and enjoy the view of Mare Nostrum (the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea) from a remarkably well preserved ruin in Libya, Leptis Magna.

The day before E-day we pulled in to Tobruk. The Sinfonia had never called on that port before. In fact no ship in the MSC line had ever called on Tobruk, so this was a big deal. We watched from the railing as dignitaries arrived at the gangway and a ceremony marking the arrival and new relationship unfolded below us. Flowers were brought by children and a great show of welcome and hospitality was made. I should mention that, in a somewhat ironic turn of events, shortly before our arrival at this port, all the passengers were informed by the ship’s officers that Libya had added a $100 per person entry fee into the country, and as a courtesy that charge would be added to our room bill.

Early the next morning we looked out on the pier and saw 50 or more buses there to drive us two hours into the Sahara Desert to a site that had been set up for viewing the eclipse. One problem: there was fog in every direction. We boarded the buses in fog and drove through the city and into the country in the fog. We spent the next hour trying to convince ourselves that the fog would not last and the sun would shortly burn it off. Well, it took longer than I had hoped but it did, in fact, clear up.

The morning fog on our way to the Sahara viewing site.

The string of buses turned off the highway and trekked up a slight incline to a plateau. There was a tent city set up with vendors with all kinds of goods along with dozens of port-a-potties. We each grabbed a chair and a table for our group of 9 and picked a spot from among the several acres where people were spreading out. We were in the company of thousands but literally in the middle of nowhere. The horizon was clear in all directions. No sand dunes here. Nothing but the flat, pebbly, hard packed soil as far as the eye could see.

This was a big event for Libya. Seldom had so many foreigners been allowed to enter the country.  A news crew with a camera on a cherry picker documented the throng. Libyan Boy Scouts entertained with dances and songs. Merchants hawked their wares as the passengers filled the booths.

We set up our gear and then walked around inspecting other setups. To say that there was an interesting juxtaposition of raw nature and high tech telescopes and cameras is an understatement. But all that faded into the background with first contact. The sky was totally devoid of clouds. Only the sun and the silhouetted moon existed. As the moon advanced across the sun, the color of the sky became as rich and varied as I have ever seen it. As the moon’s shadow raced across the ground from the southwest and engulfed our temporary town, the rich colors of dusk washed over the entire horizon. Beautiful yellows and oranges and reds no matter where you turned. And the crowd roared its approval and cheered encouragement for the moon to cover the last bit of the photosphere. For a few, precious seconds a clear, crisp diamond ring adorned the sky. More cheers went up as the last bit was covered.


The eclipsed sun in this photo is from another photo taken that day.

And then there was the corona. That awesome black circle, hole in the sky, surrounded by gorgeous streamers of pearly light. Some of those extended three, four and more solar diameters away from the black hole! Man, what an amazing sight. jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, breath-taking sight. Nearby, the planets and bright stars appeared. In the middle of the day! There were no animals or birds to go to roost, but a hush fell over the spectators of this grandest of celestial events. Cameras snapped and videos rolled as time seemed to stand still and we soaked up the rare ambiance of this syzygy. This was a moment worth savoring. But time moves on and while this eclipse lasted for 4 minutes, all too soon, with the crowd roaring its encouragement, the moon began the lengthy reveal of the sun and allowed its return to its normal, dazzling self.

As the moon receded from the sun, a box lunch was provided by the cruise line staff. Munching on a sandwich and fruit the reality of viewing the eclipse from such a grand but desolate location began to sink in. It was doubtful that these circumstances would ever be repeated, so if I have said it before I will say it again, this was a once in a lifetime experience.

(Excerpt from Go See The Eclipse And Take A Kid With You by Chap Percival.)

To purchase a copy of the book, click here.

This Has My Stamp Of Approval

This Post Has My Stamp of Approval

Among my interests is a wee bit of philately (stamp collecting). I have managed to gather a few eclipse related stamps over the years and herewith proudly display them.


The Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean had a total solar eclipse (TSE) in 1965.

Senegal experienced a TSE in 1973.

This is a cover of eclipse day in Aruba, 1998.

This is a mini-postal sheet commemorative of the 1999 TSE in Hungary.

The US Postal Service has no plans for a stamp to commemorate the August 21, 2017 eclipse. I wish they did.

If you want to see more of these, Front Page Science has a page devoted to eclipse-related stamps.

Eclipse History – Eclipse 1919

Eclipse History – Eclipse 1919

Perhaps the most famous eclipse of modern times is the one of May 29, 1919. Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity described the effect mass had on space as producing a curvature of space. The moon’s gravitational field is too weak for our technology to measure the curvature of space in its vicinity. The sun, on the other hand, does have enough mass to produce a measurable effect on the space near it. However, the sun is so bright that detecting stars near it is effectively impossible. EXCEPT during a total solar eclipse. Einstein published his paper in 1915. The next eclipse where a successful expedition was mounted was 1919. On an island of the coast of north Africa (Principe), Arthur Eddington’s team took this photograph. (Another part of his team was in Brazil.) The rest, as they say, is history. Detailed information is available here: http://cds.cern.ch/record/489163/files/0102462.pdf

This black and white negative might not look like much but there is a terrific story associated with it.

Looking for a Unique Eclipse Experience?

Looking for a Unique Eclipse Experience?

The town of Alliance, Nebraska is not a destination for many people. That is likely to change for the eclipse 2017 weekend. One of the primary reasons is a structure/attraction about 5 miles north of town called Carhenge. This was constructed in the 1980s as an art project that has turned into a landmark. The comparison to Britain’s Stonehenge is intentional. And if you know anything about Stonehenge, there are astronomical alignments, one of which draws hundreds and thousands of people there for sunrise on the summer solstice. I’m not sure about the alignment of Carhenge, but the design relationship is clear. I am sure that viewing the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse from there would be a memorable and crowd-filled experience.
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Spreading The Word

Spreading the Word

bonnie_and_chap

In July, towards the end of our cross country eclipse promoting trip, we stopped at WFAE radio (NPR affiliate) in Charlotte, NC to be interviewed. We spoke with Sarah Delia for a half hour and left feeling good about our time there. The interview was to be aired in August, but no certain date given. That’s not unusual in the ‘news’ world. Then lots of stuff, big stuff news-wise, happened in Charlotte that kept postponing our interview.

But this morning it aired. I think it is a good piece. Here is a link to it:
http://wfae.org/post/why-you-should-go-see-next-total-solar-eclipse

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This is the camper we traveled 11,400 miles in this summer.

If you haven’t made any plans to go see the eclipse, please start now. And take a kid with you. It could change their life. It will certainly be a real memory maker for the family.

The Way Back Machine

The Way Back Machine

Some of you may know that the Internet has an archive. My first website was in 1995 when I was an adjunct faculty member of the University of South Florida in Sarasota. Through the archive, I have found captures of my website. The earliest is from December 1998. It contains a page I made for the total solar eclipse of February 1998, which I saw from Aruba.

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I gave my students a challenge to create an image for me to use on the page. Austin Shoemaker produced this one that I used. Here is the link to the page so you can see how primitive it was, by today’s standards. http://bit.ly/2cZxUS8  I, at least, got a chuckle out of it.

 

Annular Eclipse – 2016

Annular Eclipse – 2016 (sometimes called the ring of fire)

On September 1, 2016 parts of Africa, Madagascar and Reunion experienced an annular (ring) solar eclipse. The moon passed directly in front of the but was too far away (hence, appeared too small) to completely cover the sun. At the time of the eclipse the sun’s apparent diameter was 31′ 42″ (that’s 31 arc minutes, 42 arc seconds) while the moon’s was 30′ 46.4″, about 3% smaller than the sun. That meant that no total eclipse occurred. Even that small amount of sun is too bright to see the corona. Here are some images. The map is from NASA, the photos from USA Today.

2016Annular (Small)

A large part of Africa saw a partial solar eclipse but only  those places between the blue lines, saw an annular eclipse. Not as cool as a total solar eclipse, but still pretty amazing.

View eclipse Reflection

These people are looking at the sun’s light reflected in the puddle of water. The reflection is bright but not bright enough to damage your eyes.

mask-shades Eclipse

I have never seen eclipse shades modified like this. Nothing wrong here, in fact, this shows just how much of a celebration these events are.

Annular-Eclipse

The ring of fire. You still need your eclipse shades on to view this. But it is definitely a cool sight.

There is one more annular eclipse before the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. It is mostly over water although a bit of Angola, Argentina, and Chile are in the path.

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