Bernie Badger: Solar Eclipse Survival

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From a million miles out in space, NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, or EPIC, captured 12 natural color images of the moon’s shadow crossing over North America on Aug. 21, 2017. Video by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

I hope all of you had a chance to experience the Great American Solar Eclipse. Here in Brevard, a good number of people came out to the Eastern Florida State College Planetarium and could see the progress of the eclipse on the projection screens attached to several telescopes set up on the sidewalk outside. Inside the Planetarium, a live video feed was projected to give a huge view of the eclipse covering the wall of the planetarium. 

Those who sought a direct view of the totality traveled from near and far to the narrow path of totality. Some sites across the nation were subjected to smoke or cloud cover. In the west weather was generally good, but smoke interfered. 

Clouds nearly ruined totality for about 14,000 people in Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. The day before was clear, but cumulous clouds arrived in time to cover the Sun during the first part of totality. Near the end the clouds parted just enough to give spectators a ten second view of what they had come for. 

More: Badger: Tiny constellation is visible from Florida

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Clouds were on my mind as I searched for a place to observe my first total eclipse. Weather forecasts aren’t 100 percent accurate, but I didn’t like the odds for South Carolina. The Tennessee Valley seemed to be a dividing line, so I went west, staying Sunday night in Tullahoma, the closest hotel room I could find near Nashville. 

Monday came and the weather looked pretty good, so I altered my plans and came back east a bit, ending up in Athens, Tennessee. The road into town was lined with cars. I found a local library and set up a small solar telescope on their sidewalk. They had a group of people there, but it wasn’t overly crowded. People spread blankets on the grassy lawn and watched the partial phase with eclipse glasses. 

Some people came over to see a magnified view of the Sun through my telescope. As it got darker, cicadas began to thrum in the trees nearby. In the telescope the final crescent of the Sun became extremely thin. People gasped at the diamond ring effect as the last bit of direct sunlight winked out. 

During full totality we looked up in awe at the strange sight of the black dark side of the Moon contrasting with the nest of coronal streamers surrounding it. It still looks quite small. I wished I had my binoculars. The telescope was useless with the solar filter still fixed on it. 

Venus shone brightly on the right, and I moved around until Jupiter appeared from behind a tree on the left even further from the Sun. Probably due to a general haze in the atmosphere, it did not seem as dark as night. There was still a weak glow like the sky opposite the Sun while twilight is still in progress. 

After just two and a half minutes totality was over as the diamond ring blazed out on the other side of the Sun. We ate a late lunch and packed up to leave.  

The traffic after the eclipse amounted to the Great American Traffic Jam, as thousands in every locality tried to make their way to the main arteries. Even the veins and capillaries seemed clotted with cars. If you were lucky police directed traffic, but if all roads are choked they cannot send you on any faster.  

What should have been a five-hour drive ended up taking over nine hours. I am still glad that I went, but I would make other plans for after the eclipse next time. Carbondale, Illinois is also on the path of the next total solar eclipse in the United States, on April 8, 2024. Clear skies to all! 

Wednesday Matinee, 8/30 

2:00 P.M. Back to the Moon for Good 

3:15 P.M. Solar Max (IMAX movie) 

 

Check the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium schedule at http://tinyurl.com/EFSCAMPO/events for hours of operation and show descriptions.  

The EFSC observatory is regularly open weekends to the public from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Saturn and Jupiter will be visible in our telescope from about 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting. By 10 p.m. Jupiter will be quite low. It will be clearer earlier. 

Mr. Badger is Project Coordinator at the Eastern Florida State College Planetarium in Cocoa.  Send questions, suggestions, or comments tobadgerb@easternflorida.edu  

 


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