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.

 

 

 

The Great American Eclipse, August 2017

If you’re a North American who isn’t living under a rock you know about #TSE2017—and I could ride my bike there.

Ha ha! JK. I’m not riding my bike 21 miles. But the edge of totality falls across Redmond, Oregon on August 21, 2017 at the northernmost edge of Roberts Field airport, just up the highway from my home in Bend.

Coincidence? I think not. Even the weak Kallawalla mystic would say it’s predictable that I live in the path of totality, a quarter of a century from experiencing my first total solar eclipse.

People ‘round these parts say they remember the Northwest eclipse of 1979—no they don’t. It was clouded out. (Disagree? Let’s see your corona shot. Yeah, I thought so.)

On eclipse day I will not be driving from my house—gridlock will grip highways 97 and 26 on the weekend before August 21st and traffic to the path from all directions will be slower than the Bend Broadband wireless network.

I’ll be at the Oregon Airstream Club Blackout Rally on the shore of Lake Simtustus, the reservoir behind Pelton Dam, in a sea of silver among my fellow Airstreamers.

Below: Lake Simtustus site; position of the sun at first contact on August 21; Great American path

 

Eclipse t-shirt quilt!

Eclipse quilt front

If you’re an eclipse chaser, you probably have a t-shirt commemorating each one. They pile up, don’t they? I’ve only been to six totalities but decided it was time to have my tees made into a quilt.

Yes, this is a thing. Any repetitive behavior that generates t-shirts—marathon running, attending the Sturgis rally, visiting Hard Rock Cafes—can be commemorated with a quilt made from the associated shirts you never wear but can’t bear to part with.

HOW AWESOME DID THIS TURN OUT? I was planning to sew it myself, but realized after I cut the shirts into squares that I had neither the skills nor the tools to proceed. Enter Master Quilt Maker Diane Ottenfeld of Bend, Oregon—a lovely local lady whose number I got from the fancy quilt shop in town.

Diane specializes in creating custom t-shirt (and necktie) quilts, and quilt completion and repair. She finished the quilt I started and worked with me to select the background fabric to tie it all together: blue—for the sky and sea—and yellow for Sol.

Eclipse quilt back

For the back she used a fabric souvenir banner I found in a village market in Madagascar in 2001. And look how the stitching on the Egypt square is a flaming sun.

Here’s her contact information. You’re welcome!

Diane Ottenfeld

541-318-7425

dddianeo@gmail.com

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.