Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse

Report From Reno, Nevada

Sunday May 20, 2012 I traveled to Reno, Nevada to see the annular solar eclipse.  An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far from the Earth to appear big enough to block the entire Sun.  It's like a ring around the Moon.  The cosmic ballet between Sun, Moon, and Earth is so fine that it was only visible from a narrow path from Northern California to West Texas.  Reno was perfect!

The local planetarium and amateur astronomy group hosted an eclipse viewing party at the Redfield Campus of the University of Nevada.  It was a picturesque scene with the snow-capped mountains of Lake Tahoe along the western horizon.  About 1000 people witnessed the event with some very creative ways of viewing the Sun safely.

Casting Pinhole Eclipse Shadows
When the eclipse started at 5:15 PDT only a small cheer rose from the crowd.  Clouds were hovering above the mountains and we were all a little anxious about them.  The clouds blocked the view before annularity off and on, but mostly stayed out of the way.  As the eclipse progressed, we could see crescent suns projected through leaves down onto the ground.  I was viewing with #14 welder's glass and a PST, trying to take pictures whenever I could.  The light got very eerie especially when the 85% eclipsed Sun went behind a cloud.  And then annularity came - with a small, pesky cloud nearby.  We saw it for 20 seconds before the cloud got it. "BOOOO!" the crowd yelled as if they could move the cloud with their contempt.  Then the cloud moved and there it was.  WOW!  I was struck speechless.  Through the welder's glass it was incredible - almost like a total eclipse. 

I managed to take these pictures in between wows.  Right click on them and "Open Link In New Window" for a bigger view.  Ah, I love being an eclipse chaser!  Next up: Transit of Venus on June 5...