Eclipse chat

I had fun sharing my eclipse experiences with a couple of good interviewers.

I was on the “Countdown to the 2017 Eclipse” show on Boss Radio 100.7 broadcast from the Oregon Coast—where residents will be the first people to stand in the shadow of the Great American Eclipse on August 21. Here’s a recording of that interview. (You can make a drinking game out of the number of times I say “spectacle”.)

Host of the weekly talk show, Kay Wyatt, is an astronomer who has her very own observatory north of Lincoln City in the coastal mountains. I was honored to be part of the 17-episode program that included interviews with several notable astronomy stars (pun intended)—among them, Fred Espenak (“Mr. Eclipse”) who was recently honored as the astrophotographer whose image was used to make the USPS Total Eclipse stamp.

I also spoke with bubbly Janine Pettit, host of the Girl Camper podcast —as Airstream trailering and eclipse chasing will soon overlap at the Oregon Blackout Rally in August—and with the Technology Reporter for the Bend Bulletin. “Eclipse Chaser Plans Life Around Solar Events” is actually a pretty accurate headline.

 

 

 

Souvenir stamps

Eclipse chasers who also collect stamps. If that isn’t a double nerd alert, what is?

Where my philatellas at, yo? Stamps and first day covers from each eclipse make a fabulous (and flat, lightweight) souvenir. To celebrate a special TSE, local governments often issue a commemorative stamp and/or a first day cover—an envelope affixed with said stamp, postmarked on the first day of its issue, usually imprinted with some kind of illustration.

Today the USPS released their Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever stamp, a first-of-its-kind stamp that transforms the eclipsed sun into an image of the Moon using thermochromic ink.

Make your own philatelic souvenir for the Great American Eclipse: address an envelope to yourself, place a Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever stamp in the usual corner, take it to the post office on the morning of August 21, 2017, and ask a clerk to date stamp the envelope and drop it in their outgoing mail. (Add artwork on the lefthand side for a personal touch; kid’s drawings of their interpretation of the eclipse would be adorable.) Be sure to physically perform this transaction with a postal clerk; you might miss the postmark by a day if you drop it in a mailbox.

Above: Stamps and cover from Bolivia, 1994. Below: Another from Bolivia; Mexico 1991; Aruba 1998; Madagascar stamps and handmade card 2001; souvenirs from Papua New Guinea 2012 (Orion ship stationery and kina bills—folding money is fun to collect, too).

 

Eclipse chaser log

Umbraphiles, have you logged your eclipses at the Eclipse Chasers website? All the cool kids are doing it.

Eclipse chaser “sounds better than eclipse stalker, paparazzi, or voyeur which are more accurate terms,” states site author Bill Kramer, a veteran of ten TSEs. “If you stay in one place all your life, the chances of seeing a total solar eclipse are quite slim. As a consequence, in order to see one or more total eclipses of the sun one must travel to see them. And that is how you become an Eclipse Chaser.”

Kramer has painstakingly assembled a nice little hub for chasers to keep track of their travels, surveil each other, and find out who else was there on the day of totality.

The Eclipse Chaser site allows you to find and claim any total, annular and/or partial eclipse, dating from 1806. (So, if you’re 211 years old, you might need to get a teenager to help you with the log in.) Add everything you can remember about your eclipse experiences, hit “save”, and your name, shadow time, chase success and other details will be posted automatically to the user summary—314 names, and counting!

Your log will include a delicious quantity of too much information you never knew you wanted to know.

Mine looks like this:

Eclipse count: 7, of which 6 were total and 1 were annular types. The remaining were partials.

Number of Saros Series seen is 6

Time in shadow of the moon: 17h 32m 31.9s. (all partial plus total plus annular)

Total Eclipse time: 21m 9.0s (1,269.0 seconds)

Annular Eclipse time: 6m 50.8s (410.8 seconds)

Central shadow time (A+T): 27m 59.8s

The site is fantastic resource for past eclipse data and includes fun auxiliary information about safety and equipment, collectibles, a gallery of images, how to chase an eclipse (there are five steps! who knew), and even boring transits.

Just select “join log” and you’re on your way. Don’t rush your entries—it make take a few tries to drop a pin on exactly where you were standing in the shadow—and don’t forget, like I did until later, to use the drop down menu to select the exact weather conditions (fun detail, Bill!). No worries, though—you can go back and edit your entry at any time.

Superbloodmoon bust

bloodmoon

Telescope positioned in the driveway? Check. Camera charged and lens changed? Check. Wagon full of filters, extension cords and PowerTank? Check. Drink poured? Check. And…no moon. Where are you, moon? I doublechecked her position with StarChart and—after arguing with a neighbor who said he just saw it out his window and it’s rising in this direction not that direction—I concurred and moved the whole awkward shootin’ match to the back yard. Still no moon.

After much hiking around our tree-lined property we finally glimpsed the dim, fully eclipsed moon, almost completely obscured by the tall pines to the northeast. Crap.

What’s that old adage I just made up? “The worst night for astronomy can turn into the best night for drinking.” The evening was mild, the rest of the universe was on glorious display, and the moon finally rose between two trees shortly after totality, letting us enjoy a few minutes with the telescope.

No time to experiment with the camera—the bright white crescent at the bottom was rapidly pushing away the red eclipse and Ms. Moon was hurrying to move behind another tree. (Why do I even try? Others capture these events beautifully. Nerdist published some pretty shots.)

I barely had time to try a lunar sketch. Guess what? Drawing a supermoon is not super easy. I wasn’t using the scope drive so the damn image kept MOVING out of the viewfinder, and juggling the red flashlight on my iPhone, my eyeglasses, three drawing tools and a pad was like a Mr. Bean episode.IMG_7095

Well, I have eighteen years to practice.

Getting geared up…

Celestron…and a little apprehensive about tonight’s supermoon eclipse. I’ve promised the neighbors a driveway spectacle: viewing the biggest full moon of the year, eerily reddened by Earth’s shadow, as seen through my Celestron 8 SE.

Totality peaks at a reasonable 7:11pm, Pacific Time. (Seven eleven…hmm, the date of my first total solar eclipse. Bodes well.) Beginner tip: Always refer to the astronomical date and times as reported in your local newspaper. If your paper is lame, doublecheck with another local source. I nearly had a heart attack learning that the eclipse would be on Monday while I was reading Sky at Night—published in the UK.

I’ll set up early and paw through my eyepiece collection to make sure I have the right one well in advance of the arrival of the spectators. I don’t think I’ll need the clock drive. (If you can’t track to the moon, your telescope privileges should be revoked.)

Looking forward to viewing the darkened blood moon, which I assume will reduce the light blowout that makes observing a full moon difficult. Skies are clear here in Central Oregon—should be a beautiful night. I’ll try my hand at a lunar sketch, using this tutorial.

Now: to concoct a drink recipe for tonight. Suggestions? I’m thinking something red…

About the Supermoon Eclipse—tonight!

blood moonTonight’s lunar show is a three-banger: a harvest moon, a blood moon, and a supermoon, all at once.

What is a supermoon?

Tonight, the moon will appear in the sky to be nearly 15% bigger (and 30% brighter) than your average full moon.

Why?

The moon will be at “perigee”—it’s closest position to Earth as it orbits around our planet. Tonight will be the nearest moon of 2015.

It’s sometimes called a harvest moon, right?

Right, and that’s wrong. The supermoon isn’t always a harvest moon—the full moon that shines near the fall equinox. But it is tonight.

What is a blood moon?

A nickname for a lunar eclipse—which also occurs tonight. Our eclipsed moon looks red because of the smoke and particulates in Earth’s atmosphere. The level of redness will vary due to the position of the sun at the time of the eclipse. (Tonight’s eclipse, as seen from Central Oregon, will be a little less red than usual.)

Is the supermoon always eclipsed?

No, that’s what’s cool! The last time there was a supermoon/blood moon combo was 30 years ago. You’ll have to wait 18 years to see it again.

Should I be worried?

Damn right you should. Nutjobs everywhere are warning that it’s a sure sign of the coming apocalypse. (NASA says, and I’m paraphrasing, CTFD.)

How do I view it?

Just go outside and look up. No telescope or special eyewear required. The Oregon Observatory will have scopes set up at Sunriver. Too lazy to go outside? NASA will be hosting a live feed.

When?

The total lunar eclipse will last about 70 minutes, with partial phases beginning around 5pm Pacific Time. After totality at around 7pm, the moon will continue to be shadowed until around 10pm. Exact timetables are crowding the interwebs today; here’s one. The early hour means it won’t be very dark; try to drive out of town to someplace remote for better viewing.

About

RC filterRhonda Coleman

Not even an amateur astronomer, yet gifted with a fancy Celestron NexStarSE8 with the H-Alpha solar filter and full eyepiece package that I currently use to look at Saturn. Then I go back indoors where it’s warm.

I love the spectacle on the ground when humans look up, together, to observe phenomena—eclipses, comets, aurora. A lucky chaser, I’ve experienced clear skies for totality during all six attempts. BOOYAH:

 

  1. Mexico—July 11, 1991
  2. Bolivia—Nov. 3, 1994
  3. Aruba—Feb. 26, 1998
  4. Madagascar—June 21, 2001
  5. Egypt—Mar. 29, 2006
  6. Papua New Guinea—Nov. 13, 2012

Next TSE, right around the corner (and right in my own backyard): Oregon, August 21, 2017