100 Days Until Totality! 47 Days Left – How is the Town of Jackson Preparing?

100 Days Until Totality! 47 Days Left – How is the Town of Jackson Preparing?

This August, an unprecedented number of people will observe the Total Solar Eclipse. The last time the United States observed totality was on March 7, 1970, and it was only visible from a few states on the East Coast. Millions of people live in the path of totality of this year’s eclipse, and the entire population of the 48 continental states will observe a partial eclipse on August 21st. With so many people wanting to observe the eclipse, how are the towns in the path of totality preparing?

The Town of Jackson has been preparing tirelessly since 2015. The police and EMS are bringing in extra highway patrol officers and emergency services, and are keeping careful track of all of the large events happening in the valley. Through the hard work of the town’s Eclipse Event Coordinator, Jackson’s EMS services, and their teams and employees, the Town of Jackson has created www.tetoneclipse.com, a highly comprehensive website with important information for both locals and visitors. Wyoming Stargazing has been assisting the town in spreading awareness by holding free monthly presentations with Jackson’s EMS coordinator. To find out when and where the next presentation is, visit our Public Astronomy Programs page, and check out our calendar at the bottom.

Preparedness and awareness go hand in hand! The town of Jackson would like all of its residents to be aware of the number of guests joining us for the eclipse, and to welcome them for a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event. Local restaurants should consider stocking more food and beverages for eclipse week. Gas stations should make sure their tanks are full. Visitors and residents alike should have a back stock of food, water, and gasoline. The most important task, though, is to GET EXCITED! Some consider total solar eclipses the most beautiful celestial event visible with the naked eye!

100 Days Until Totality! 48 Days Left – How to Make a Pinhole Camera

Credit: NASA/JPL

Pinhole cameras are an easy and accessible way to view a solar eclipse. They are especially useful for young children or others who may not be able to look through a special solar telescope or solar eclipse glasses. Pinhole cameras are simple devices that use the properties of light to create a perfectly in focus image with no fancy lenses or mirrors. To create the camera all you will need is 2 pieces of white cardstock paper, aluminum foil, tape, scissors and a pin.

Take one of the pieces of paper and cut a square hole in the middle. It does not matter how large you make the square, but making it a little larger will probably make this project easier to work with. The next step is to tape aluminum foil over the square hole, completely covering it. Here comes the “pinhole” part of the pinhole camera, take the pin and make a tiny hole in the center of the aluminum foil. Congratulations! You now have a simple and easy way to view the eclipse.

Simply stand outside with the Sun behind you and let the light from the Sun fall onto the “camera” (with the foil side facing towards the Sun). The image will be projected below you on the ground. You can place the second piece of paper here to provide a nice screen for the image. Holding the camera farther from the screen will create a bigger image. You should try this out before the eclipse to get some practice and figure out what looks best to you.

100 Days Until Totality! 49 Days Left – The Google Megamovie Project

Google is undertaking a large citizen science project for the Great American Eclipse of 2017. The goal is to obtain photos from many different locations along the path of totality. The goal is to study the Sun’s corona in great detail. The corona is still not fully understood and most of our observations of it have been done with radio waves. The eclipse of 2017 provides a unique opportunity for many people to obtain data on the corona with visible light waves. Google will use the photographs taken all over the country and combine them together into a movie so we can see how the corona changes over a short amount of time. The data taken for this experiment will be available to the public as well.

Another goal of this project is to study the phenomena caused by valleys on the Moon known as the diamond ring. This will be done so that a more accurate measure of the Suns size can be determined.

To participate in the Megamovie project and learn more about the equipment required to take proper photos click here.

100 Days Until Totality! 51 Days Left – Photography Part 2: Technical Information

Credit: Mr. Eclipse http://mreclipse.com/SEphoto/SEphoto.html

Photographing an eclipse can be a tricky task. The brightness of the event requires careful choice of exposure times and a special solar filter to protect your camera from damage. If you are lucky enough to be experiencing totality you will be able to capture a picture of the Sun’s corona. The corona is very dim and will not be seen with the solar filter on, so make sure to take it off once totality begins. To the right is a table of suggested exposure times from retired astrophysicist Fred Espenak otherwise known as “Mr. Eclipse”.

100 Days Until Totality! 52 Days Left – Photography Part 1: To Watch or to Shoot?

Over the next three days we’ll be doing a three part series on photographing the Solar Eclipse!

Even for the experienced photographer, shooting a Total Solar Eclipse is a challenge. It takes months of practicing and perfecting the steps to make sure you get the perfect shot. If you’ve never experienced a Total Solar Eclipse before, it might be a good idea to just enjoy the event, and wait for the next eclipse to perfect your photography skills! If you’re an experienced photographer who has observed an eclipse before, but has never photographed it, give it a shot! You’re going to need to practice a lot before August to get it right. But first, make sure you have the proper solar filter for your camera. See our blog post from yesterday to find out where to buy one! And remember – the filter must be attached to the end of the telescope or lens! You’re going to want to use a telephoto lens of at least 300 mm, but no more than 1000 mm. Usually, lenses over 1000 mm are telescopes! Tomorrow we’ll talk about the ideal settings for your camera.

100 Days Until Totality! 53 Days Left – Protecting Your Telescope and Your Camera

Thinking about photographing the eclipse, or possibly observing it with a telescope? You probably already have enough gear to get some decent photos! The most important new piece of equipment you’re going to need to buy is a solar filter. Solar filters are absolutely necessary for solar photography and solar astronomy. Without a filter to block the dangerous solar radiation, your eyeballs and your camera will sustain serious damage. You must make sure that there is no chance anyone could look through your equipment without a filter on. Oh, and also: DO NOT USE A FLASH ON YOUR CAMERA OR SMART PHONE! During totality, our eyes will adapt to the darkening skies. The white light from a flash will disrupt you (and your friend’s) pupil dilation, and will ruin their ability to see the corona.

To purchase solar filters for your camera or telescope, visit Thousand Oaks Optical. Order soon, as supplies are limited!

100 Days Until Totality! 54 Days Left – Protecting Your Eyes

We’ve all been told by our parents to never look directly at the Sun. But why? What is it about the Sun that damages our eyes so much? To answer that question, first we need to talk about the electromagnetic spectrum.

The light that our eyes can see is referred to as visible radiation. Different colors represent different wavelengths of light, and when white light passes through a prism (i.e. the album art for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon), the different wavelengths emerge from the prism at different locations. When we see a rainbow, we are seeing the white light from the Sun being refracted through water vapor in the atmosphere. The water vapor acts as a prism, bending the white light into the ROYGBIV colors we see.

The Sun also produces radiation outside the bounds of the visible spectrum. Ultraviolet radiation and high energy blue light cause retinal damage across all species. Ultraviolet rays stimulate growths in the eye known as pingueculae and pterygia. These growths can cause distorted vision, and issues with the cornea in the eye. If you look directly at the Sun, your eye will receive a very high dose of UV radiation. High doses cause something called photokeratitis, which is a very painful inflammation of the cornea. Severe photokeratitis is also known as snow blindness. Snow blindness causes temporary vision loss for 24-48 hours. The term snow blindness comes from the most common cause of the injury: unprotected eyes looking at snow. Snow is extremely reflective, and bounces the UV radiation right back up into your eyes.

During the eclipse the UV radiation will creep out from behind the Moon. Even if the Sun is 99% covered enough UV radiation will make it around the Moon to hurt your eyes. This is why it’s very important to have solar eclipse glasses on during the entire total solar eclipse except for during the few minutes of totality. To buy solar eclipse shades to protect your eyes visit our online store here!

100 Days Until Totality! 57 Days Left – A Summary of North American Total Solar Eclipses of the 20th Century

Credit: www.GreatAmericanEclipse.com

On June 8, 1918 a total solar eclipse was seen from coast to coast. The path of totality went from Washington to Florida. Until the eclipse this year this will have been the most recent eclipse that went from one side of the country to the other.

A total solar eclipse occurred over southwestern California and Mexico on September 10, 1923. However, cloudy weather ruined many attempts to see this eclipse.

New York City was lucky to have a total solar eclipse January 25, 1925. This eclipse was very well studied as the path of totality covered many observatories.

On August 31, 1932 the path of totality of an eclipse passed from Canada into New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

Towards the end of World War Two a solar eclipse passed over the northwestern United States on July 9, 1945.

A total solar eclipse began in Nebraska on June 30, 1954. This eclipse traveled east to South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The path of totality continued across the Atlantic Ocean passing over Europe and almost reaching India.

On October 2, 1959 a total solar eclipse hit Massachusetts. Williams College professor Donald Menzel, chartered a flight so that his class could view the eclipse. The experience inspired one of his students, Jay Pasachoff. Later he went on to become a famous solar physicist who studied the Suns Corona.

July 20,1963 a total eclipse passed through Northern Canada and then down to Maine. This eclipse is in Stephen King’s Book, Gerald’s Game.

Much of the east coast was subject to a total solar eclipse on March 7, 1970.

The last total solar eclipse to hit the mainland of the United States was on February 26, 1979. The eclipse hit the pacific northwest but cloudy weather made this difficult to see.

The last total solar eclipse to occur in the United states happened on July 11, 1991 over Hawaii. Unfortunately this eclipse was also ruined by abnormally cloudy weather.

100 Days Until Totality! 60 Days Left – The Last Great Wyoming Eclipse: Part 2

Credit: Vasser College

The total solar eclipse of 1878 also brought the first professional female astronomer out west, Maria Mitchell. Maria grew up learning astronomy from her father and helped him calculate the exact time of an annular eclipse when she was only 12 years old. Maria’s first solo accomplishment was the discovery of a comet at the age of 29. In 1865 Maria became a professor of astronomy at Vassar College where she fought to be paid equal to the male professors at the college.

During the Wyoming eclipse of 1878 Maria organized a group of female astronomy students and traveled out west to Denver. A group of women travelling without men was unheard of at the time. Maria and her 5 students traveled over 2000 miles by train and then ventured to the countryside outside of Denver to set up camp. This type of hands on education and research was also new at the time.

Using large refracting telescopes with solar filters the students were given instructions on what observations to make.

“You will see Nature as you never saw it before – it will neither be day nor night – open your senses to all the revelations. Let your eyes take note of the colors of Earth and Sky. Observe the tint of the Sun. Look for a gleam of light in the horizon. Notice the color of the foliage. Use another sense – notice if flowers give forth the odors of evening. Listen if the animals show signs of fear – if the dog barks – if the owl shrieks – if the birds cease to sing – if the bee ceases its hum – if the butterfly stops its flight – it is said that even the ant pauses with its burden and no longer gives the lesson to the sluggard.”

100 Days Until Totality! 62 Days Left – The Discovery of Helium

(Public Domain) Bust of Helios

In 1868 French astronomer Pierre-Jules-César Janssen was studying a total solar eclipse in India with a device called a spectrograph. A spectrograph is used to figure out what something is made out of based off of the colors of light it gives off. The spectrograph uses a prism to split a beam of light into all of its different colors. Elements and molecules give off specific colors that are determined by how the electrons are bound to their host atom or molecule.

When Janssen pointed his spectrograph at the Sun’s corona he observed a signature that no one had ever seen before, a yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometers. Janssen called in the help of English chemist Edward Franklin, together they determined that the line belonged to a new element. They called it helium after helios, the sun god from greek mythology. This was the first time that an element was discovered in space before being discovered on Earth. Originally it was thought that helium only existed on the Sun. However, today we know that some does exist on Earth trapped in pockets underground. Due to its density, helium typically escapes our atmosphere very quickly.