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:
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:
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:
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:
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:  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

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.
Assuming clear skies, the Anderson Jockey Lot on U.S. Highway 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 38 seconds.  Totality for the City of Greenville will be 2 minutes and 10 seconds – nearly 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 6 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 29 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.
For information contact Rick Boozer by email at
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.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


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:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Crossplatform version of AltiSight app.

I have updated a software utility that I created for amateur rocketeers called AltiSight. As before, it is offered free to the public and it now has some extra functionality. But the biggest change is that (unlike the previous version) it is no longer a "Windows only" app! Now Linux and Mac users can download a version of AltiSight that will run on their computers. I hope to add versions that will run on Android tablets and iPads in the near future. For details, go to my Singularity Scientific website (by clicking the image below). Once you are at the website, click the AltiSight link in the menu frame to the left of the screen.
An example of output from the AltiSight app.

Monday, February 1, 2016

See the Moon, Venus and Mercury very close together!

The Moon, Venus and Mercury will all be within a mere 5 degrees of each other on February 6, 2016 in the southeast.  They will be very low, so you will need to be at a location that has no tall trees or buildings obscuring your view in that direction.  All the other planets that are visible to the unaided eye will also be visible farther to the west.  Julie and I have been enjoying observing all of these planets for about a week now (as of February 2) during our early morning walks.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Baseless Smear Article: "Opinion: Despite Boozer’s claims NewSpace needs NASA"

Article by Jason Rhian here at Spaceflight Insider:

First inaccuracy:
"Despite Boozer’s claims, NewSpace needs NASA"
I never said NewSpace doesn't need NASA and have never believed that.

Another whopper:
"... would be wise to tamp down the “defund NASA” rhetoric"
Where did he get the nutty idea that I want to defund NASA?  I have made it plain numerous times over the years that what I and most other anti-SLS advocates really want is for NASA to not be milked by pork-barrel politicians.  Defunding of NASA is the last thing I want.

"The refrain employed by Boozer that NASA didn’t “want” SLS – bears little resemblance with what these officials have stated repeatedly."
OK, I did say NASA didn't want SLS.  It is Rihan's long standing claim that this is not so which is patently false. An article by me with links embedded in its text that lead to documents backing up my assertion can be found here:

Rhian states, "NASA should serve as a pathfinder, with commercial companies taking over operations that NASA has left behind."
A true statement, but not in the way he means.  As I have always stated, NASA indeed should be the pathfinder developing new cutting edge technologies with the commercial companies doing the stuff that has been tried-and-true for so long that it is beneath what NASA should be doing.  The trouble is that SLS is NOT new cutting edge tech and it costs more than it should, as explained in the article by me to which I supplied the link above.

There are many other misrepresentations in Rhian's piece that I do not have time to address.  It is starting to really bother me because this B.S. article now comes up on the first page of results from search engines when they are queried about my name.