December 18, 2017

Ghosts of Eclipses Past

Trouvelot’s classic view of the 1878 eclipse over Wyoming.

Image in the Public Domain.

Are you ready?

There’s a great line from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the Three Stages of Sophistication which every civilization must pass: “1. How can we eat? 2. Why do we eat? And 3. Where shall we do lunch?” [Read more...]

U.S. Postal Service to Issue Changeling Total Solar Eclipse Stamps

A mind-bending stamp.

Credit: USPS.

Ready for the Great American Eclipse? If you’re like us, you’ve been planning on where you’ll be meeting totality on August 21st, 2017 for going on a decade now. It’s the big ticket celestial show of 2017 for sure, maybe the decade (we’re assuming, of course, that a killer comet or alien invasion isn’t on tap for our unsuspecting planet in 2018 through 2020).

Just last month, the U.S. Postal Service got in on the act, with the announcement of a release of a Forever Stamp commemorating the total solar eclipse on June 20th. The first-day-of-issue ceremony takes place at the Art Museum in Laramie, Wyoming, which lies on the eclipse path of totality. Ceremony participants will catch a rare spectacle of June 20th, as a sunbeam meets a silver dollar embedded in the museum floor, an event which only occurs during the June summer solstice. We’ll note if they carry the event live.

And check out this amazing video simulation of the Moon’s umbral shadow gliding across the contiguous United States on August 21st from west to east courtesy of umbraphile Michael Zeiler:

Fly over the Great American Eclipse from Michael Zeiler on Vimeo.

The eclipse stamps are printed using thermochromic ink, and will change from totality to an image of a Full Moon when heated, say, by the owner’s thumb, then revert to the eclipsed Sun once again upon cooling. The photo depicts the total solar eclipse snapped from Libya on March 29th, 2006 by Fred Espenak.

Here’s a cool idea; mail a letter/postcard to yourself or a friend on August 21st, 2017 for a one of a kind “postal cover” postmarked with the date of the eclipse… maybe this could become a tradition for eclipse-chasers on subsequent expeditions.

This will be an eclipse for the ages for sure… be sure to pre-order your USPS Eclipse Stamps now, they’re sure to sell out quick!

Astro-Events: A Close Conjunction and a Penumbral Eclipse.

Looking east Nov 27 two hours before sunrise.

(Created by the author in Starry Night).

This week sees the second eclipse of the November eclipse season and the spectacular return of the ringed planet to dawn skies.

First up is the penumbral eclipse of the Moon on November 28th. A Penumbral eclipse occurs when the Full Moon misses the dark inner umbra and instead passes through the indistinct, bright outer penumbra of the Earth’s shadow. You may not even notice the subtle shading of the Moon unless you’re looking for it. [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]