Sunday, March 26, 2006

Solar Eclipse

I read in the news that there will be a total solar eclipse on March 29, 2006. Unfortunately, the visible path is going to be in northern Africa and across the middle of Asia with the greatest eclipse occuring near the border of Libya and Chad. No chance I'll be there. :)



I have been near two solar eclipses though. The first was on January 3, 1992. I just graduated from USC with my MSEE and was still looking for a job. I think I was taking C++ programming (or Japanese) at El Camino College and caught the very end of an annular* solar eclipse that occured mostly across the Pacific Ocean. I even had a piece of silver-ish film to look through at the eclipse. I remember it got a bit darker but not much else.

*An annular eclipse differs from a total eclipse in that the Moon appears too small to completely cover the Sun. As a result, the Moon is surrounded by an intensely brilliant ring or annulus formed by the uneclipsed outer perimeter of the Sun's disk. The solar corona is not visible during annular eclipses.



The other was a total solar eclipse on August 11, 1999; Shirley and I were on our honeymoon in Europe. That day, the eclipse path went through northern France with the greatest eclipse occuring somewhere in south-west Romania.



We had signed up for a tour of Monet's garden in Giverny and the Ch√Ęteau de Versailles. On our way to Giverny from Paris, we noticed a lot of cars on the road headed the other way. I think a lot of people were headed for the maximum eclipse boundary somewhere north of Paris while Giverny and Versailles were southwest of Paris. Anyhow, when we got to Monet's garden, the place was completely empty. Our tour guide said that the garden was usually packed with tourists, especially during summer. I think only one other tour group showed up while we were there so I was able to take a lot of good shots of the garden. It's all on regular film so I'll need to scan the photos before I can post them.


Aerial view of Monet's garden

After Giverny, we took the bus to Versailles and stopped in the parking lot/entrance to see the eclipse. Even though we weren't in the path of maximum eclipse, I think we were close enough to be in the high 90%. The sky was a bit cloudy but it did get a lot darker and noticeably colder for about two minutes. It was going from noon to dusk and back to noon in a couple of minutes. I did get one shot of the sun with our camera but I'll have to figure out how to scan that photo as well.

On a side note, I'm trying to install the scanner driver for my HP 6110 on my Mac Mini and all I can find is a 90MB install file on HP's website. I'm sure it's going to be a waste of hard drive space but I can't find anything else. Arg, items remaining to be installed: 717... :(

Anyway, I found a map on NASA's website with projections of future total solar eclipses. I think I want to experience a total eclipse at least once, and be at the point of greatest eclipse if possible.



I think my best chance is the on on August 21, 2017, 11 years from now. All the other eclipses seem to occur over the ocean and the August 1, 2008 eclipse seems pretty hard to get to since it's in northern Russia. Maybe the July 22, 2009 eclipse may be an option since the path of maximum eclipse goes through Shanghai, although there may be too much air pollution to see anything.

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I plugged in the coordinates for the greatest eclipse on August 21, 2017 into Google Earth and it's near Hopkinsville in Western Kentucky at the corner of Hwy 91 (Princeton Road) and Quarry Road. There seems to be a farm on the corner. I guess I better start looking for hotel rooms!

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