Solar eclipse – special delivery to Asheville

From the Institute for Climate Education at A-B Tech:  A fascinating spectacle occurred on Sunday, May 20, but only viewers in the Western and Central U.S. were treated to the rare annular solar eclipse that evening.  Fortunately, I was able to capture it as I was visiting the West Coast on vacation.

The image below is a composite of five images that I shot over the course of the two-hour event, showing the progression of the moon as it moved across the sun. The eclipse started as the moon began crossing the lower right section of the solar disk, looking as if someone had taken a bite out of the sun (!). At the peak on the eclipse, the moon covered enough of the sun to make it look like a crescent (center), then the moon exited toward the upper left.

An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon sweeps in between the earth and the sun, but unlike a total solar eclipse, in which the moon completely blocks out the sun, the annular eclipse blocks only a portion. (The term annulus is Latin for “little ring”.1) This occurs because the moon’s orbit around the earth is not a perfect circle — it is actually an ellipse. During this particular pass in between the sun and the earth, the moon was too far away to completely cover the disk of the sun. This meant that those who were within the center-line of the eclipse (about 200 miles wide), were treated to the “ring of fire” as the moon covered up to 94 percent of the sun, creating what looked like a black hole in the center of the sun. I was not within that center-line, which stretched from Northern California to the Texas Panhandle, but the view from Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles was truly amazing, as about 85 percent of the sun was blocked at the height of the event.

Perched on top of the roof of the observatory, I got a birds-eye view of the crowd and numerous television crews who had gathered to witness the historic event. You can just barely make-out the famous “Hollywood” sign on the mountain to the left, under the large tower.

By the time the sun set, we were back to a full solar disk and a beautiful view of the iconic sign.

So — when is our next opportunity to witness a solar event here? We’re in luck! On June 5, we will be able to see the planet Venus as it crosses directly between the earth and the sun, called a transit. As the transit of Venus occurs around sunset on the 5th, the planet will be visible as a small black dot crossing the face of the sun. Click here for more information from NASA. But the big event: A total solar eclipse will occur August 2017, and the “path of totality” will pass just to the south and west of Asheville! (Look here for detailed maps.)

The most important aspect of viewing any solar event, is to protect your eyes. You should NEVER look directly at the Sun. We used protective solar viewing glasses like these (they even worked as a great filter for my camera!).

Have you registered to attend the FREE severe weather workshop hosted by the Institute next Saturday, June 2nd?  Registrations have been brisk and I’d love to have you join us for this special event. The Institute is hosting Basic and Advanced Skywarn severe weather spotter training by the National Weather Service from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm on the A-B Tech Asheville campus.  While the event is offered free of charge, we are asking participants to pre-register by May 31st. To pre-register, send an e-mail with your full name and a contact phone number here.  For more information, visit the Institute’s website here.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annulus_%28mathematics%29

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