December 14, 2017

Review: Exploring the Saros with Eclipse-Maps!

Paths over North America from 2001-2050.

(Click to enlarge)

(Courtesy of Eclipse-Maps)

It happens sometimes in the world of astronomy journalism. One of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard science journalist Bob Berman tell was that of an irate eclipse chaser. He had used his erroneous article based on a faulty prediction to plan his vacation to St. Kitts, which lay well outside of the path of totality. We often fail to realize the lives we may be impacting, as we blog away on all things astronomical… now, with a hot new resource from eclipse chaser Michael Zeiler’s Eclipse-Maps, you’ll never risk being stranded outside of the path of totality again. Mr. Zeiler works in the geographic information systems industry and his skill and mastery at the art of map mapping carries over into his love of astronomy and eclipses.

Eclipse-chasers are, well, a dedicated breed, perhaps only surpassed in their border-line obsession to pursue their quarry worldwide by bird-watchers and orchid hunters. All have risked disease, kidnapping, and lost luggage in the pursuit of their craft. And while you can reasonably expect to see a partial or total lunar eclipse of the Moon from your backyard on any given year, (you just need to be on the moonward facing side of the world) total and annular solar eclipses such as this Sunday’s usually demand that you travel to them. At times, it may seem like areas such as the parched deserts of Africa or the inhospitable steppes of Mongolia are “eclipse magnets,” but perhaps this just speaks to how much of the planet remains uninhabited.

Our eclipse wall map courtesy of Eclipse-Maps arrived in a sturdy poster tube, a work of art quality printed and suitable for framing. I like how the 2011 to 2060 map (and other maps on the site) are clean and clear to read while still providing the technical “goods” we all obsessively crave.

Of course, it was perhaps a dangerous and distracting decision to hang said map right behind my desk. Mental discussions such as “Bills paid, must check email… oh! Look! There’s an eclipse over northern Maine in 2024!” have now become a frequent everyday occurrence at Astroguyz HQ.

Another one of the secret pleasures of browsing the site is the links and images of historical eclipse maps offered. Solar and lunar eclipses often turn up at key moments in history and it’s fascinating what old maps tell us about the times and how observations were conducted. In a modern world where online content creators worry about being “too niche,” Eclipse Maps is proudly niche-within-niche and thriving there. Browsing the collection, you’ll find such gems as the May 29th 1919 total solar eclipse that saw the first proof of relativity via the bending of star light and the frightening depiction of Europe embroiled in war during the August 22, 1914 total solar eclipse.

The author is adding more eclipses and transit maps as he collects them, and the topic of total solar eclipses will be approaching the forefront of the news as twin total solar eclipses occur over the United States in 2017 and 2024.  Be sure to also check out the author’s contribution to the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast, as well as follow him for all updates cartographic and astronomical @EclipseMaps on Twitter.

Word hot off the street is that an eclipse locating app may be the next offering from Eclipse-Maps… in fact, said site just hit our inbox this morning; it’s worth losing an hour or three playing with!

And that wraps up our very first “Map Review” for Astroguyz; do check out this unique site as a great planning guide for nabbing that next totality, as an educational tool, or just a unique insight into astronomy and history. Those maps made today may well become keepsakes of tomorrow; will Eclipse-Maps and the charts it generates become a cherished piece of astronomical history itself?

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  1. [...] entitled Being in the Shadow. Also, check out Michael Zeiler’s outstanding site Eclipse-Maps as reviewed last year on this site. Our next shot a totality worldwide will be on November 3rd of this year with [...]

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