December 11, 2017

Astro Video of the Week: Making a Binocular Solar Filter

From eclipse glasses to binocular solar filter…

Scrambling to prepare for the Great American Eclipse at the last minute? This final Friday before the August 21st 2017 total solar eclipse, we thought we’d share with you a fun and easy project. Lots of folks across North America just recently got their hands on a pair of solar eclipse glasses for the event. While millions are expected to stand along the path of totality, most folks will only witness varying partial phases of the eclipse, and will need to use eclipse glasses throughout the event. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Hunting for the Oldest Eclipse

Totality from the 1914 eclipse over Sweden.

(Credit: N. Nordenstrom)

An astronomical mystery came our way this past week.

If you’re like us, you’re gearing up to meet the shadow of the Moon in just 10 short days. While interest in the August 21st, 2017 total solar eclipse crossing the United States runs high, we wondered: what’s the oldest video of an eclipse featuring totality that is readily accessible online?

After numerous challenges and queries to the astronomical community, we came up with this old film seeming to show the total solar eclipse of August 21st, 1914 over Sweden.

Unfortunately, the team hosting the site declined to share the video with us for YouTube and a wider audience… on YouTube, the oldest video including totality seems to be this fine footage featuring the January 24th, 1925 total solar eclipse over New York City courtesy of British Pathe:

Now, video technology dates back to the 1880s… surely, someone must have tried to capture totality during solar eclipses in those early decades? More than likely, those early efforts have yet to be digitized, or are poorly indexed on ye ole web. Searching “total solar eclipse” of YouTube currently yields a flood of videos running the gamut from astrology and conspiracy theories to actual real science, a tough challenge to sift through to find anything of true historical value.

Back to the Swedish 1914 video. This eclipse occurred over war torn Europe during the opening months of World War I. We actually wrote about this eclipse and how the war foiled early efforts to measure Relativity from Crimea. Sweden was neutral during the war, and witnessed a fine spectacle just past local noon.

Now, there’s a cryptic statement at the end of the description of this video, claiming “the eclipse of this film is a fool in any case”. We ran this by a Swedish friend of ours in the event that Google translate was missing a nuance, and this does indeed seem to be the case…

The trouble is, if it is indeed a fake, it’s a good one. To the experienced eye, the footage showing totality and the corona of the Sun does indeed look real. Note the similarity of the 1925 footage above and the 1914 video in question. Also, timings given for the partial phases of the Sun are correct.

Plus, it’s tough to shoot totality, as exposure times drop dramatically when the Sun is eclipsed. More than likely, the very first attempts to make a video of totality weren’t successful. A sequence towards the end of the clip does show the partial eclipse superimposed over the crowd viewing it… is this what the commentator is alluding to?

Or perhaps, the totality footage is spliced from a different eclipse. There were indeed total solar eclipses over Europe in 1912 and 1905 leading up to 1914. Apparently, video was indeed shot during the April 17th 1912 total solar eclipse over Costa Lobo, Portugal, though it hasn’t made its way to the web…

The book Catchers of the Light mentions astronomer Nils Nordenmark (also listed in the opening credits of the video) and his successful attempt capturing the 1914 eclipse.

Another thing worth noting is the solitary sunspot seen on the disk of the Sun during partial phases of the eclipse in the video. Any sketches of the solar disk from or around August could cinch this… tantalizingly, Mount Wilson observatory didn’t start doing daily sunspot sketches until a few years later in January 4th, 1917.

So for now, the title of oldest eclipse video featuring totality remains a mystery, an enigma that I’ll open up to the larger audience. It’d be great to put this one to bed in time for the Great American Eclipse… any takers?

 

Astronomy Video of the Week: Skiing the Eclipse

A screen-cap from the Svalbard eclipse documentary.

Image credit: Salomon FreeSki TV

What’s more thrilling than a total solar eclipse? Mounting an expedition to capture one from a unique and unseen angle…

A recent team from Salomon Freeski TV did just that. Earlier this year, a total solar eclipse graced the high arctic. A few hardy souls braved the fickle weather of the North Atlantic sea to witness the brief moments of totality. Getting to the eclipse was tricky, as it only crossed over land for the Faroe and Svalbard Islands. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: A Stratospheric Eclipse

A fine partial eclipse as seen from the UK.

(Credit and copyright: Blob rana).

Our mind has been consistently blown this past weekend as photos continue to pour in of Friday’s total solar eclipse.  We’ve been doing live coverage of eclipses for various venues now for a few years, and it simply amazes us how quickly video and images now flows in to us from the field. The path of totality for the March 20th solar eclipse only made landfall over distant Svalbard and the Faroe Islands, and yet within hours, we had photos, animations, Vines and reports of the eclipse from Earth and space before it was even over. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Exeligmos Part 3

Here it is just in time for eclipse day: the final chapter of our time-spanning eclipse adventure Exeligmos. We’ve got lots more original sci-fi, eclipse-based and otherwise, on our Amazon author page… don’t forget to start this three-part tale back on Chapter 1.

Exeligmos Chapter 3

by

David A. Dickinson

Ever watch those the old vids made as the shadow of the Moon swung across the old United States for the first time in decades on August 21st, 2017? If you look hard, you’ll see me. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: An Arctic Total Solar Eclipse!

A ‘diamond ring’ seen at the end of totality during the 2008 solar eclipse.

Credit: NASA/Exploratorium

The month of March sees the beginning of meteorological and astronomical Spring in the northern hemisphere. March also gives us another reason to celebrate, as the first of two eclipse seasons for 2015 begins. 2015 features 4 eclipses — 2 solar and 2 lunar —and the first one is coming right up on March 20th. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Tracking the 2017 Solar Eclipse

The path of the 2017 eclipse over the U.S.

(Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair).

Where will you be on August 21st, 2017? That date isn’t as far away as you think. Just over three and half years from now, a total solar eclipse will span contiguous United States from the Pacific Northwest to the southeastern Atlantic seaboard. This will be the first solar eclipse to grace the lower 48 states since 1979, and the first time totality has crossed any of the 50 states since 1991. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Documenting the November Hybrid Solar Eclipse

Totality as seen from Libya during the 2006 Total Solar Eclipse.

(Credit: NASA TV).

An interesting Indiegogo project came to our attention just last week.

ISSET, the International Space School Educational Trust, is working to document and create a live interactive web broadcast of the only solar eclipse to include totality for 2013.

They will be chasing after the hybrid eclipse which crosses the Atlantic Ocean and central Africa on November 3rd of this year. Maximum totality for this eclipse off of the west coast of Africa is a scant 1 minute and 40 seconds. The team is headed to the Kenyan village of Kalokol on the shores of Lake Turkana, where totality will be even more fleeting, at 15 seconds in duration.

The two hour feed will feature live interaction with an online audience worldwide by astronaut and veteran Space Shuttle commander Ken Ham, astronaut trainer Michelle ham, and astronomer Dr. Rhodri Evans.

ISSET has a solid 15 year track record of promoting international STEM education. The team has a targeted goal of $75,000 USD to make the documentary and the online event happen. Broadcasting from such an austere locale, they may be the only webcast in town for this event!

Perks range from a tweeted “thank you” at the 5$ level (they’re @IntSpaceSchool on Twitter) up to an opportunity to join the team in Kenya at the $12,000 mark. We’ll be driving over to the Florida Space Coast side if skies are clear on the morning of the 3rd, for a brief <3% rising partial eclipse.

This is a fascinating project, and for a noble cause.  We’re now within 4 years of the “Big One,” the total solar eclipse crossing the United States on August 21st, 2017. And we’ve only got three totals before then… why not join the ISSET team online or in person this coming November?

Review:Total Addiction by Kate Russo.

 

On sale now!

Thank our good fortune for our one large Moon. While many an astronomer might curse its presence in the night sky, its very existence gives us an astronomical phenomenon that may well be unique in our neck of the galaxy; total solar eclipses. And that happy coincidence of having a Moon that’s roughly 1/300th the diameter of our nearest star but 300 times closer is also a happenstance of our position in time as well; the Moon is receding from us at about 3.8 centimetres a year, meaning that about 0.6 billion years hence, the last total solar eclipse will be seen from the surface of the planet Earth. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: What’s in a Name? Black & Blue Moons through 2020.

The August 2011 Full Moon rising as seen from Astroguyz HQ.

(Photo by Author).

(Note: This week’s lunar-related event is a fitting tribute to the life of astronaut hero and legend Neil Armstrong, who passed away this weekend. As the second Full Moon of the month approaches, don’t forget to look skyward and remember when the first man walked on the Moon in 1969. Next week’s special Astro-Event will be Apollo 11 related as well. This one’s for you, Neil!) [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...]

Astro Event: A South Pacific Eclipse.

Animation of the July 11th Solar Eclipse. (Credit: A.T. Sinclair/NASA).

Path of the solar eclipse…click for animation. (Credit: A.T. Sinclair/NASA).

   This year’s big ticket astronomical event occurs over a sparsely populated but beautiful track of our planet; we’re talking about July 11th’s total solar eclipse. Of course, it isn’t often that an eclipse doesn’t occur over the windswept Arctic or a war-torn banana republic… the Sun and sand of an island eclipse may just be the perfect combo. If you haven’t already made plans to catch one of the numerous cruises headed that way you may have to enjoy it vicariously with the rest of us via the Internet; this eclipse graces only a smattering of islands before making a brief landfall in South America across the Chilean-Argentine border at sunset. The path of solar totality will not grace our planet again until November 2012 in another South Pacific eclipse that intersects this month’s path! Its maximum length of 5 minutes and 20 seconds occurs over open ocean. Two very interesting sites for viewing include Easter Island and just off of the coast of French Polynesia and Tahiti; the more adventurous may want to head for the Cook Islands site of Mangaia, which lies right along the centerline. Weather prospects may favor the northern hump of the path, with a mean cloudiness of less than 50%… but for sheer beauty and landscape photo ops, Easter island will be your best bet. No doubt most of humanity will experience this one vicariously via the web; follow @Astroguyz via Twitter, as we’ll post where online to watch this extra-ordinary event in the days leading up to the eclipse!     

The Astro-term for this week is Metonic Series. A metonic series of eclipses arises from the fact that the period of 19 tropical solar years is very nearly equal to 235 synodic months. This was first recognized by the astronomer Meton of Athens in the year 432 B.C. The error of difference is 2 hours per 19 years, and this accumulates to a full calendar day every 219 years. A metonic cycle of eclipses will share the same calendar date in groupings of 4 to 5 per series… for example, the first eclipse related to this month’s was on July 11th, 1953 and the last will be 19 years from now, on July 11, 2029. Do not confuse metonic series with saros cycle, which is independent of the solar calendar and based on a period of 223 synodic months. So what, you say? Well, metonic series not only factor into eclipses landing on the same date, but also play a role in calculating when the Moon will appear at the same phase in the same position again… metonic series even play in to trajectory calculations for lunar bound spacecraft, as well as serving as a basis for the Hebrew calendar and the computation of Easter!

July 2010: Life in the Astro-blogosphere.

The Return of... Stove Pipe Scope! (Photo by Author).
The Return of… Stove Pipe Scope! (Photo by Author).

 

   (Editor’s Note: As of July 1st, we are ramping down our output and limiting ourselves to the AstroEvent & Review of the Week in our quest to wrap up our science teaching degree. Don’t worry; we’re still in new content mode, just throttling back a bit. You can also get up to date astro-news and musings via following us at @Astroguyz on Twitter!)

July holds several interesting astronomical events; although the Earth approaches aphelion this month, you’d never know it at Astroguyz HQ what with the sultry jungle-like conditions. What follows is a brief rundown of what you can expect to see this month at an Astroguyz blog near you;

Coming to a Sky Near You: Our home world (well, mine anyway) Earth starts off the month at aphelion, or its farthest point from the Sun on July 6th.  But the big ticket event is the total solar eclipse over the South Pacific on July 11th. This month, we’ll also show you how to sight Neptune in its original discovery position, as well as cover the occultations of the stars S Scorpii and E Arietis by the Moon on July 21st and 7th, respectively. In the realm of events of the strange and curious, the planet Saturn will be very near the galaxy NGC 4073 on the 25th and its moons will be in order on my birthday, the 31st. 

This Month in Science: Probably the most anticipated event this month will be the Rosetta spacecraft’s flyby of asteroid Lutetia on July 10th. On this site we will also review of the Transits of Venus by William Sheehan & John Westfall… can you believe that we’re now less than one year out from the final transit of Venus in our lifetimes? Also, we take a look at Microsoft’s entry into online planetary software with the WWT Telescope. Also, we take a look at Astronomy Magazines, both newsstand and virtual.  

This Month in Science Fiction: As reviewed here last month, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald comes out from Pyr Books on July 6th. In the retro-category we review 5o Science Fiction Short Stories… also expect a sneak peek at The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder out from Pyr books in September.

Launches in July: First up is a July 9th launch of the first satellite of the Space Based Surveillance System aboard a Minotaur 4 out of Vandenberg AFB. The next day on July 10th, EchoStar 15 launches out of Baikonur. This is followed by a July 27/28 Cartosat 2B out of Satish Dhawan Space Center in India, and the month ends with the July 30th launch of AEHF 1 aboard an Atlas V out of Cape Canaveral. Follow the latest launch changes and updates at SpaceFlightNow.

Astro Bloopers: A science related blooper came our way recently via the otherwise excellent forensic anthropology drama Bones, Season 1 Ep 9. The key case kept stating that the 1500 year old skeleton dated from the Iron Age… granted, the smelting of iron began in different cultures at different times, but the Iron Age for northern Europe generally predates the fall of the Roman Empire… this puts the idea of an Iron Age skeleton from circa 500 A.D. on very questionable ground.  

This Month in Astro-History: July 26th, 1963: Sycom 2, the first geosynchronous satellite was launched; pay per view hasn’t been the same since.

Astro Quote of the Month: “It’s all coming together, and politicians are starting to notice. I call it a growing coalition between the tree huggers, the do-gooders, the sodbusters, the cheap hawks, the evangelicals, the utility share holders, the Mom and Pop drivers, and Willie Nelson.”

          - R. James Woolsey, Former Director of the CIA on the new environmentalists.

 

AstroEvent of the Week: A Solstice/Lunar Eclipse Tie-In.

Hudson-henge! (Photo by Author).

Hudson-henge! (Photo by Author).

 

   Astronomers and lovers of the dark rejoice; Monday we take begin to take back the night! The summer solstice occurs June 21st at 11:28UT; this is the point that the Sun is at its highest apparent northerly declination and begins its long march southward. If you’re down under, of course, it’s the beginning of winter and the reverse is true. You probably won’t notice the slow creep of darkness and ever shortening days until around September, but it’s the thought that counts. The higher northerly latitude you are, the greater the variation. And to top things off, a partial lunar eclipse occurs on Saturday, June 26th. This will be visible from the Far East at moonrise eastward across the Pacific in its entirety to North America at moonset. Only the northeastern US gets left out. This will be the first lunar eclipse over the contiguous US since February 2008, and at its maximum the Moon will be 54% eclipsed. First contact with the umbra occurs at 10:16UT and the Moon departs the umbra at 12:59 UT. This eclipse is part of saros series 120, and sets the stage for the Tahitian total solar eclipse next month. This is also a good primer for December’s total lunar eclipse, which will occur in its entirety over the US on the winter solstice!  

The Astroword for this week is Gnomon. Ever wonder what that protractor-looking arm is called on a sundial? Of course you have, and now you can tell people with authority that this is known as a gnomon, complete with the silent “g”. Gnomon is Greek for “indicator” or “one who discerns”, although the phrase “she was the gnomon for all which was a failure in my life,” might be stretching it a bit. For a sundial to work function properly, the gnomon must be set parallel to the Earth’s axis, which is a fancy way to say to the north in the northern hemisphere and south…well, you get the idea. Hopefully, this knowledge won’t spark a lawsuit against the Ancient Greeks by any manufacturer of polar aligned telescopes. Now during the summer solstice is a good time to check that garden sundial against your local standard solar transit time or measure the sun fast as evinced by our friend, the equation of time… gnomon also makes a good “gn” Scrabble word, right along with “gnarled” and “Gnostic,” a sure fire way to get folks scrambling for the dictionary!

Event of the Week: 20.07.09: A VERY long solar eclipse!!!

 

 

The astronomical event of the year is about to take center stage this Wednesday. A total eclipse of the Sun, the longest possible for a VERY long time! Those lucky enough to have secured a ticket or live along the Pacific/Southeast Asia corridor will see an eclipse of a duration of up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds, near the maximum 7 minutes and 31 seconds possible. This is a consequence of the Earth passing aphelion a few weeks ago (read: a visually small Sun) and the a large New Moon very near perihelion (remember the year’s smallest Full Moon a few weeks back?) [Read more...]

Astro Event for July 29th-August 4th, 2008: an Arctic Eclipse.

Eclipses rarely happen over civilized areas. It seems as the shadow of the moon is extremely shy, avoiding your local suburbia and instead forcing eclipse chasers to risk life and limb, often courting terminal illness and kidnapping to see this elusive spectacle. The total eclipse of August 1st, 2008 is no exception.

[Read more...]