Solar Eclipse Follow-Up

   Fearing for massive traffic jams we (wife Susan and granddaughter Keeley) left for Briarcliff Elementary School in North Kansas City around 8 am. Virtually no traffic as we went around the city and went across the Missouri River and river valley on Highway 169 and then up the bluff on the other side to the school. Lightning was to the north and southwest and thunder was rumbling – but the Sun was sort of shining through broken clouds.

   The sky remained partly cloudy as I set up and students were coming outside to practice how to use their eclipse glasses. The sky stayed partly cloudy until about 10 minutes before totality as the leading edge of what would soon be rain approached from the northwest as broken cumulus type clouds.

   Leading up to totality there were two distinct sunspot groups visible as this picture shows. We were fortunate that the sky stayed relatively clear leading up to totality. However the broken clouds started clumping together but the clouds did part several times allowing for us to see totality each time there was a break in the clouds.
   No post totality pictures because within a few seconds after totality ended the last of the broken clouds passed and the sky was completely overcast. As we left the school it was raining. Got home a few minutes before the eclipse ended – skies were partly cloudy – so we had one last look with eclipse glasses.


   A big shout-out to Mrs. Kate Place, her staff and students, at Briarcliff Elementary School for hosting the Eclipse on the Cliff event.
   Click here to see 360o pictures and videos. Be sure to select HD at the highest resolution possible.
   
   
   

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Full Moon – Partial Lunar Eclipse


   Monday August 7th the full Moon, just one day before it will be at descending node, passes through the Earth’s outer shadow and briefly crosses through part of the darker inner shadow, the umbra. This sets up a partial lunar eclipse.
   The Earth has two distinct shadows, an inner and much darker umbra, and the outer and fainter penumbra as this NASA graphic shows.
   This eclipse will not be visible across the continental United States.

    For additional information about this or other eclipses go to the Hermit Eclipse web site.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

February Moon at Descending Node and a Solar Eclipse

26feb-descending-node
   Sunday February 26th the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic. The time for new Moon phase 14:59 UT while the time for the node crossing is 8 hours earlier at 6:40 UT. Given the close times for the two events means that there will be a solar eclipse. However the Moon, because of its elliptical shaped orbit, will be at a further distance from the Earth such that it will appear smaller in diameter than the Sun appears. This means that at mid-eclipse, or totality, the Moon will not completely cover the Sun, instead there will be a ring of sunlight around the Moon. The ring of sunlight is called the annulus and so this is an annular solar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible from parts of southern Argentina and western central Africa.
annular-eclipse-ani   On my birthday in 1994 I was ‘honored’ to not only have an annular solar eclipse on that day but the eclipse path, the path of annularity, crossed right over where I live southeast of Kansas City Missouri. This animation is of the May 10th annular solar eclipse.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

September Annular Eclipse

node-close_up   The solar eclipse on Thursday September 1st, will have been brought to us by the nodes. No the nodes are not a scientific nor a musical group, but rather the nodes represent an intersection between the orbital path of our Moon, or another planet, with the Earth’s orbital path, the plane of the ecliptic.
   There are two nodes or intersections, the ascending node and the descending node. There are two nodes because the planets as well as our Moon do not orbit the Sun on the same level, or plane as does the Earth. Their respective orbits are inclined (tilted) away from the plane of the ecliptic by varying amounts such that they will at times appear below or above the plane of the ecliptic. There will be two times each orbit around the Sun where the planet or our Moon will be on the plane of the ecliptic as it crosses moving from below setting up the ascending node or from above toward below, setting up the descending node.
   So what is the significance of the nodes? The significance is all about timing. If the time of the new Moon phase, for example, occurs at or near the time for a node crossing then there will be a solar eclipse. Remember that at this moment the Moon is on the plane of the ecliptic and is more or less directly between the Earth and the Sun. More importantly, if the times are exact or very close there will be either a total solar eclipse or an annular solar eclipse. 29april-annular_eclipse-ani   During an annular eclipse the Moon is somewhere near its apogee, or most distant point for that particular orbit. This annular eclipse happens 5 days before the Moon reaches apogee on September 6th but the Moon is still far enough away so that its apparent diameter is less than the Sun’s apparent diameter. Both are around 0.5o or 30′ in apparent diameter, however for this annular eclipse the Moon will be about 3% smaller and not be able to completely cover the Sun at mid-eclipse. Instead at mid-eclipse there will be a ‘ring of fire’, the annulus, around the Moon.
   Thursday September 1st the new Moon phase is at 9:03 UT and the Moon is at its ascending node about 6 hours later at 15:27 UT. The Moon makes first contact with the Sun at 6:23 UT; maximum or mid-eclipse is at 9:06 UT; and the eclipse officially ends with last contact at 12:00 UT.
   To sort of complete this story, if there is a solar eclipse, no matter how total or less than total, there will be a lunar eclipse two weeks away at full Moon phase. Eclipses occur in pairs so this pair will be completed with the penumbral lunar eclipse at full Moon on September 16th.Moon Grazing the Earths ShadowFull Moon on September 16th is at 19:05 UT, about 19 hours after the Moon is at its descending node, 11:57 UT September 15th. Because of the time difference, the angle the Moon follows through the Earth’s shadows does not cross the dark inner umbral shadow but rather only takes it across the less noticeable outer penumbral shadow. Unless you knew about it you may not notice a slight dimming of the reflected moonlight.

   For an outstanding web site about all eclipses including information for these two eclipses go to the Hermit Eclipse web site.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

It Is Okay To Point

clicl on picture to see it larger   During the lunar eclipse the other evening (on my side of the world) I had, for a time, the company of my daughter, granddaughter, wife, and our dog Tyler. As my daughter pointed toward the Moon and helping our granddaughter aim her binoculars I had this cosmic thought. Am I the only one wondering “if the Moon is there where is the Sun?” Obviously more or less 180o away from where the Moon is. After all this is a full Moon. So by putting the Moon behind you point toward the ground at an angle that is the same as the angle the Moon is above the horizon. That is where the Sun is at that moment.
camera-points    A look at how I had my camera setup sort of conveyed that idea as well.
   The Moon is within the constellation of Pisces near the vernal equinox, the crossing between the ecliptic and celestial equator. This means the Sun, if opposite from the Moon, would be at a similar crossing but the opposite season in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden – the autumnal equinox.

   Some pictures of the lunar eclipse around the center of my universe.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

New Moon + Node Crossing + Apogee = Solar Eclipse

solar-eclipse-ani    Sunday morning September 13th the Moon, at new Moon phase, will pass between the Earth and the Sun setting up a partial solar eclipse that will be visible from southern Africa toward and then across the Antarctic continent. As with all eclipses the amount and duration of an eclipse is all a matter of timing. The closer the time for the new Moon phase (September 13th 6:41 UT) is to the time of a node crossing (September 14th 4:38 UT) the more centered the Moon will be on the Sun or centered within the Earth’s shadow for a lunar eclipse. The further apart these two times are then the eclipse will probably be a partial eclipse as is the situation for this one. This partial solar eclipse also occurs close to the time for lunar apogee (September 14th 11 UT), the furthest the Moon is from the Earth for that particular orbit.
    Use the this link to Hermit Eclipse web site for additional information about viewing the eclipse. Or check the time of your local sunset and then use the online eclipse-time calculator from NASA to find the timing of the eclipse for your location. Alternately use the Eclipse Calculator at the Time and Date web site.

aug17-ascending-node    On Monday September 14th at 4:38 UT (September 13th at 11:38 pm CDT) our Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

sep14-apogee-moon   The Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), this month on Monday September 14th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.86 Earth diameters (406,464 km or 252,565 miles) from the Earth.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

March 2015 Equinox and Solar Eclipse

   Friday March 20th is an equinox day. This means that for those in the northern hemisphere winter is ending and spring has ‘sprung’ (starts). For our counterparts south of the equator summer is ending and fall is beginning. From a geographical perspective we would describe the Sun as being over the Earth’s equator, and as this graphic shows there would be an equal amount of daylight and night on our planet as a result.
    At mid-day on the equator the sun is directly overhead and from that latitude you have no shadow, just a ‘blob-like’ shadow at your feet as this picture of my feet taken at mid-day in Quito Ecuador shows.

    Regardless of your hemispheric preference get outside and cast a shadow!

seasons-ani  Northern hemisphere spring officially (well at least astronomically) begins at 22:45 UT (4:45 pm CST) on the 20th when the Sun reaches the celestial coordinates of 0 hours and 0 degrees as it moves northward along the ecliptic crossing the celestial equator. At this location the Sun is within the constellation of Pisces the Fishes and not just entering Aries the Ram as the pseudoscience of astrology would have you believe.

    To learn more about the celestial coordinates click here to read a previous post about seasons and the equinox.

   The time of this equinox is about 13 hours after a new Moon phase and a solar eclipse. This picture shows the shadow of the Moon cast on the Earth during a solar eclipse as seen from the International Space Station.

   Click here to see the online world sunlight map used to make the day/night graphic at the top of the page.

sun-earth   Click here to go to the NASA Sun-Earth Days web site.

   Here is a short series of hourly pictures taken during the day on the September equinox on the equator in Quito Ecuador at Collegio Menor San Francisco de Quito, a private school that I visited and did the SunShIP project with (Sun Shadow Investigation Project).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


   
   
   

[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.