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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse photos shot at Anderson Jockey Lot on August 21, 2017

Photos below all shot by Ivan Moreno during the eclipse event I hosted.
Here's one that plainly shows the magnetic field lines in the Sun's outer atmosphere called the corona.

Next, the diamond ring effect just after full totality!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

NASA Eclipse Maps Are In Error as much as One-half Mile!

Simple steps to get more precise info about the upcoming solar eclipse.
By Rick Boozer

As I detail below, the problems with the NASA eclipse map app go even further than the article in the Kansas City Star indicates.  See their article: “Those maps of eclipse path? ‘Wrong’, experts say by up to one-half mile at edge  They are correct in saying the app might mislead you to think you are at the outer edge of the path of totality (where you would get  to see one, two or more seconds with no direct sunlight peeking around the Moon) when you actually are not!

First point.  The reported inaccuracy doesn’t just apply to the boundary edges of the path of totality, it also applies to the center of the path where the amount of totality time is supposed longest.  Again, you might think you are going to get maximum totality at the location you have chosen, when you are not.  Mind you, it will only be a few seconds off at most, but still off.  To die-hard eclipse chasers, every second is precious.

Second point.  As an astrophysicist, I would never rely on the NASA map for this very reason.  Instead, there is only one truly reliable source of eclipse data; that is, the U.S. Naval Observatory.  Eclipse prediction has always been USNO’s job almost as far back in time as the nation’s founding.  Even NASA gets their data from USNO when they want to figure spacecraft trajectories.

Following is a detailed description of what I do for maximum eclipse prediction accuracy that I use.  It is simple enough for anyone to do.  Run the Google Earth app.  Use that app to find the latitude, longitude and altitude of the location you are checking.  Next, enter this data into the USNO’s Eclipse App at: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/SolarEclipses.php.  Note you may have to convert the altitude from feet to meters, but Google has a web app for that.

The above method is how I determined that the Anderson Jockey Lot would have the longest totality time of anyplace on the I-85 corridor.  Btw, the NASA app predicted a totality duration 3 seconds shorter than the USNO app in this particular case.

Image credit: NASA

Thursday, July 6, 2017

BE SAFE!!! Don’t Misuse Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses


  -- And Other Safe Ways to View a Solar Eclipse -- 



Viewing a solar eclipse improperly can put your eyesight in danger.  With the upcoming eclipse on August 21, now is a good time to discuss various methods to see the eclipse safely.

By now, everyone has probably heard about the special eclipse viewing glasses being made available.  At the Anderson Jockey Lot, 1000 pairs of these glasses will be given away on the day of the eclipse (yes, at NO charge) as long as supplies last.  Many organizations and companies are also offering such glasses for free as a public service.  These glasses are only needed during the period of the eclipse when part of the Sun is not covered by the Moon’s disk.  The only time you can safely look at the eclipse directly without the special glasses is during the scant few minutes that the disk of the Sun is fully hidden (at totality).  Indeed, during that brief totality you are encouraged to look directly at the eclipse to get the full effect in all of its glory.  The special glasses will be needed again as soon as totality is over, should you continue watching the Sun.

However, it is necessary to use the glasses in the way the manufacturer recommends to properly protect your precious eyesight!  Even when looking through the special eclipse glasses, you should observe the Sun for no longer than 3 minutes at a time with at least a 20-minute break in between each 3-minute observation.  Indeed, you will not miss anything by not looking at the Sun frequently before totality, because the Moon’s disk will gradually cover the Sun’s disk at a very slow imperceptible rate.  Those who wear prescription glasses should place the eclipse glasses in front of their regular glasses, as I am pictured doing in the above photo.

But there are safe ways to constantly view the eclipse, even before and after totality.  Those of you who have read one of my earlier articles know that you can see all the sunlit periods (called partial phases) of the eclipse by looking in the shade cast by a leafy tree.  If there is not a tree around, you can use a common kitchen colander.  The holes in that utensil will project nice multiple images of the eclipsing Sun  onto any surface you choose if hold the colander far enough away from the surface.

NEVER look at the Sun directly through binoculars or a telescope at any time, whether there is an eclipse or not.  However, if you own either of those, there is a safe way to use them to observe the solar eclipse.  If using binoculars, it is best to use an adapter (available for a few dollars) to mount the binoculars to a camera tripod.  Again, DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN DIRECTLY THROUGH THE BINOCULARS.  While holding a white piece of cardboard behind the binoculars, tilt the binoculars with the mount until you see the shadows of the binocular’s tubes as perfectly round circles. At that time, the binoculars will be pointing directly at the Sun.  Now, move the cardboard far enough away from the binoculars for the Sun’s image (projected onto the cardboard by the binoculars) to appear at least 3 inches wide.   Looking at the image of the Sun, focus the binoculars until the disk of the Sun is sharp around the edges.  Click here to see a photo such a binocular projected image.

The same technique can be used with a small telescope, but the telescope should have a main lens or mirror no wider than 3 inches (75 mm) to avoid overheating.

Another way to safely observe the eclipse with binoculars or telescope is to buy professionally made full-aperture filters.  This method may be the easiest and most convenient way to use a telescope or binoculars to observe the Sun.  Here are a couple of sources: Thousand Oaks Optical and Orion Telescopes.

I hope you have found this article useful.  Have fun experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse, but most of all, stay safe.  You are invited to join us at the Anderson Jockey Lot where we will have the longest totality along the I-85 corridor lasting 2 minutes and 40 seconds!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weird Things Happen with a Total Solar Eclipse

Everyone talks about how visually stunning it is when the darkened Moon fully covers the face of the Sun in a total solar eclipse.  And indeed, it is!  But there are other unusual, truly strange happenings that occur when the Moon passes in front of the Sun.   If you aren’t prepared to look for them, some of these weird phenomena are so fleeting that you can miss them.  Following are descriptions of a number of those novel occurrences to be looked for on August 21st.
Long before totality (when the Moon is only covering part of the Sun’s face), go to a nearby tree and look in the shade of the tree’s shadow.  You will see hundreds of crescent images of the partially covered Sun all over the ground!    In fact, this is a safe way to view all the partial phases of the eclipse without harming your eyes.  Where do all these many images come from?  The gaps between the tree’s leaves act like a pinhole camera by projecting the Sun’s image on the ground.  Here is a photo that was shot of such a tree shadow during a previous solar eclipse:

(Above image credit and copyright Elisa Israel) 
Anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds before totality or just after totality ends, closely look at any flat light-colored or white surfaces around you.  You may see a very strange sight.  At such times, dark lines called shadow bands may be seen racing back and forth across the surfaces.  These shadowy lines are caused by sunlight peeking around mountains and through valleys around the outer rim of the Moon, while turbulence in the air makes them appear to shift position.  To see a video of eclipse shadow bands, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_XMnU7Ad40
In the minutes before totality, all of your surroundings will appear dimly lit in a very strange and different way from what you experience at sunrise or sunset.  Everything will seem somewhat similar to what you see when you wear very dark sunglasses, but with a kind of surreal sheen that can’t be described adequately.
As soon as the Moon entirely covers the Sun and causes the sky to completely blacken, the air will instantly chill -- perhaps by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  Animals will become confused.  Bats may fly around thinking it is night.  Birds may go to roost.  Crickets or cicadas may begin to chirp.
If the land is flat for miles around your location or you are on a mountain top, you will be able to see the darkest part of the Moon’s shadow (called the umbra) racing across the ground towards you just before totality and away from you afterwards.  Here is video of the approaching and leaving umbra as seen from an airplane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InlUONyIpdM
An instant before the Sun’s disk is completely covered by the Moon, you should experience the visually stunning diamond ring effect.  The slight bit of Sun remaining will give the impression of a brilliant diamond with the ring being a faint glow around the darkened Moon.  Some images of the diamond ring effect can be seen at this link: https://sunstopper.wordpress.com/tag/diamond-ring-effect/
IMPORTANT NOTE: The brief few minutes of totality is the only time it is safe to look directly at the Sun with no eye protection.  If you are wearing special eclipse glasses, take them off when the Moon completely covers the Sun.  But be sure to put them back on if you continue looking at the sun as soon as totality is finished. 
It will become dark as night during totality.  The stars will pop out and you will see two very bright points of light near the Sun. They are really the planets Venus and Mercury.  Most people never get to see Mercury because it is usually so close to the Sun that it is blotted out by the Sun’s glare. 
Mars and Jupiter will make an appearance.  Those two planets will seem to be near the Sun, when in reality they will be much farther away on the far opposite sides of their orbits.  In total, 4 of the 5 planets that don’t require a telescope can be seen during the eclipse.
Sirius, the Dog Star, will show itself as the very bright star to the southwest of the Sun.  In fact Sirius is the second brightest star in our sky after the Sun.
If we are lucky, there will be eruptions from the Sun that cannot be seen at any other time.  These eruptions are called prominences and will glow a bright beautiful ruby red color.  Go here to see a photo of red prominence eruptions during an eclipse: http://county10.com/will-wildlife-be-fooled-into-bedding-down-for-the-night-during-the-eclipse/
The bluish white glowing corona (outer atmosphere of the Sun) is made of charged hydrogen atoms; AKA plasma.  During totality, the corona allows us to see the beautiful structure of the Sun’s powerful magnetic field as the plasma is pulled by magnetism into graceful curving field lines.  Check out this gorgeous corona photo:  http://www.zam.fme.vutbr.cz/~druck/eclipse/Ecl2013g/TSE_2013wa_ed/0-info.htm.  As pretty as this image is, no photo can capture the almost ethereal fluorescent hue that you will see when looking directly at the corona.  Also, notice that you can see red prominences in this image near the bottom of the Sun.
I hope this description of strange eclipse phenomena has piqued your interest and raised your excitement level about the upcoming total solar eclipse.  Remember that the Anderson Jockey Lot will have the longest running totality period of any location along the I-85 corridor and U.S. Highway 29.  See you there!
For more information contact me (Rick Boozer) by email at topastro@singularsci.com.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Awe-Inspiring Spectacle in Upstate South Carolina





For the first time in 47 years, South Carolina will experience a once-in-lifetime total solar eclipse!  On August 21, 2017, Anderson Jockey Lot will host a viewing of the event as a free public service.  Astrophysicist and veteran total solar eclipse observer, Rick Boozer will provide expert running commentary as the eclipse progresses -- beginning with the more than hour long partial phases and then ending with the short (but spectacular) period of totality.
Assuming clear skies, the Anderson Jockey Lot on U.S. Highway 29 will be the best viewing location of the totality climax along the I-85 corridor with longest totality time in this area of 2 minutes and 40 seconds according to the U.S. Naval Observatory's Solar Eclipse Computer.  Totality for the City of Greenville will be 2 minutes and 10 seconds – fully 30 seconds less.  Spartanburg, at most, will only have several seconds.
Why will the Jockey Lot experience a longer totality than any place else along U.S. Hwy 29?  It is because the very center of the Moon's shadow will pass over that location.  Thus, anything farther north or south of the Jockey Lot along U.S. 29 will experience a shorter totality time.  For instance, even though Green Pond is only a few miles south of U.S. 29 away from the Jockey Lot, totality there will be 8 seconds shorter.
When observing an eclipse’s partial phases, it is important to understand that eye damage can occur if viewed with the unprotected eye.  Normal sunglasses do not filter many harmful solar rays that can injure your eyes during the partial phases.  For the public’s safety, special eclipse sunglasses will be available at the event (while supplies last).  The special glasses will not be needed during totality.
Everyone is welcome to view the eclipse at the Anderson Jockey Lot.  We will attempt to shoot video of the eclipse and, if successful, the footage will be accessible online.
Partial eclipse phases begin at 1:09 PM EDT.  Totality will start at 52 seconds after 2:37 PM EDT and will end at 32 seconds after 2:40 PM.  Late partial phases end at 4:09 PM EDT.
Of course, if the sky is cloudy, the total eclipse will not be seen.  Let’s all cross our fingers for clear skies!
Our thanks to Anderson Jockey Lot owner, Mac McClellion for allowing this public event on his premises.  Special accommodations for campers will be available as described here: https://www.facebook.com/AndersonJockeyLot/posts/1600346250007626
For information contact Rick Boozer by email at topastro@singularsci.com.
The next total solar eclipse in South Carolina won’t happen for another 60 years, so don’t miss the eclipse this August if you can help it!
--- Photo of total solar eclipse by Koen van Gorp and used here with his permission ---




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Automated Astronomical Object Feature Measurer

Want to know the size (in kilometers or miles) of a sunspot, lunar crater, festoon on Jupiter, etc. that you see in a photographic image?  My latest software creation called Automated Astronomical Object Feature Measurer (or AAOFM for short) can quickly and accurately tell you the answer.  The app is offered free for download.

Designed to run on Windows, Linux and Mac computers.  Note: This is a beta version and I need feedback concerning any bugs that may exist in the app.  I have installed and run the software successfully on Windows and Linux computers; therefore, input from Mac users would be appreciated.
Click the image below to go to my website and choose the menu option to the left labeled  Automated Astronomical Object Feature Measurer to go to the appropriate download area.

http://singularsci.com/

Saturday, November 5, 2016

ATTENTION ALL DOB OWNERS WHO DON'T HAVE A COMPUTERIZED OBJECT LOCATOR

You may already have a computerized object locator and not know it! That is, if you have the right kind of tablet or smartphone. It must have an e-compass in it as well as GPS capability and use the Android operating system.

For over a year, I have been using the free astronomy app SkyEye in my outdoor public outreach astronomy presentations. Last night, I finally got around to using one feature in the app that few people have heard of. I just laid my Asus tablet on a Dobsonian telescope (sticking it on with Velcro) belonging to my friend Jesse Willard. I then told the app when the scope was pointed at each of two calibration stars. From that point on, when I wanted to go to a deep sky object, the tablet would tell me how to turn the telescope to get to the object. Sure, enough when the tablet said I had reached the Coat Hanger cluster, there it was in the eyepiece. Next, M27 the Dumbbell Nebula -- again in the eyepiece's field of view. I stopped at that point because I had forgotten to bring my jacket and was getting too cold.


Go here to download the app (image from SkyEye download page)A display from SkyEye: