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Wyoming Stargazing Blog

100 Days Until Totality! 91 Days Left – Baily’s Beads and the Diamond Ring

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Credit: Newbury Astronomical Society http://www.naasbeginners.co.uk/

The Moon is not a perfectly flat sphere. Instead, it is scarred with ancient meteor impacts, mountains, valleys, and canyons. When light from the Sun passes through these features, you might be able to observe an effect called Baily’s Beads, named after Francis Baily who first accurately described the phenomenon in 1836. Technically (and controversially), Edmond Halley made the first description of the event in 1715:

“About two Minutes before the Total Immersion, the remaining part of the Sun was reduced to a very fine Horn, whose Extremities seemed to lose their Acuteness, and to become round like Stars … which Appearance could proceed from no other Cause but the Inequalities of the Moon’s Surface, there being some elevated parts thereof near the Moon’s Southern Pole, by whose Interposition part of that exceedingly fine Filament of Light was intercepted.”

Pasachoff, J.
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100 Days Until Totality! 92 Days Left – The “Night” Sky

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Credit: Stellarium

During the eclipse, the Sun and Moon won’t be the only celestial bodies we can observe. With the Sun temporarily covered during totality, it will become dark enough for us to see stars and other bodies that the Sun would usually outshine. Below is an image captured from a desktop program Stellarium, showing what the area around the Sun will look like if you are facing south east and looking up. During this particular eclipse, we will be able to see Mercury, Venus, and Mars close to the sun.
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100 Days Until Totality! 93 Days Left – What are Solar Prominences?

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Credit: NASA www.nasa.gov

During totality, we may be lucky enough to see objects in the Sun’s chromosphere known as solar prominences. These objects appear as small wispy red bumps sticking out from the red glow of the chromosphere at the Moon’s edge. Although they appear small, prominences are massive! They are often many times larger than the Earth. Prominences are caused by the Sun’s intense magnetic field, which is incredibly complex and intensely strong. Its shape is constantly changing and churning.
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100 Days Until Totality! 94 Days Left – The Anatomy of the Sun

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Credit: Fahad Sulehria www.novacelestia.com

Much like the Earth, the Sun has different layers to its structure. The densest region is located at the middle, where hydrogen and helium are being pulled to the center of the Sun by gravity. Light particles (a.k.a. photons) produced in the core by nuclear fusion have to reach the layer known as the photosphere before escaping into space. After their valiant escape, it takes just 8 minutes for the photons to hit the Earth.
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100 Days Until Totality Blog! 95 Days Left – What is the Sun?

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Our sun is a star just like all of the points of light in our night sky. The reason the Sun is so bright and appears so much bigger than the other stars is simply because it is so close to the Earth. The Sun is actually pretty average. There are many stars that are much larger and much hotter. If you took the star Betelgeuse (in the constellation of Orion) and placed it where the Sun is, the Earth would actually be inside of it!
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100 Days Until Totality Blog! 96 Days Left – What Will You See During Totality?

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Credit: Takeshi Kuboki https://www.flickr.com/people/40802894@N02?rb=1

Credit: University of Rochester Physics and Astronomy Dept. http://www.pas.rochester.edu

Seeing the Moon pass in front of the Sun is not all there is to a solar eclipse! When the eclipse begins, the disc of the Moon will start to pass in front of the Sun and it will start to get darker. Eventually it will be almost as dark as night with stars visible in the sky in the middle of the day.
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