Astro Bob blog: Spectacular eclipse and a stargazing memory from the Great LakesSeeing the Easter Island eclipse plus a reader shares an astronomical memory while working aboard an iron ore carrier
By: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
Spectacular eclipse and a stargazing memory from the Great Lakes
The last flash of sunlight, called the diamond ring effect, immediately before totality during yesterday's eclipse over Easter Island. The same happens at the end of totality. Credit: A frame from the Ciclops Group video
Like some of you, I'm new to the world of watching total solar eclipses via live video feed, but let me tell you how fun it was. Around 2:30 yesterday I clicked on the Ciclops/Shelios website for their eclipse webcast from Easter Island. At first the video window was blank and I had my doubts, but 5 minutes later, the broadcast kicked in. My daughter and her boyfriend joined me to watch puffy cumulus clouds float by LIVE over the heads of those big moai statues and a crowd of eclipse watchers. Would it be clear up by totality, we wondered? Yes! Both the Easter Island group and the three of us cheered as the moon covered the last crescent of sunlight and the sun's beautiful corona suddenly flashed into view.
We watched all 4-plus minutes of totality and then were blown away by the spectacular "diamond ring" effect as the first bit of sun emerged from under the moon. Two seconds later a big cloud encroached upon the sun. All of us felt lucky to have seen the best part of the eclipse in the nick of time. Another very nice feature of the webcast was a running Facebook commentary where you could ask questions or share your reaction to the eclipse.
I hope you gave one of the live feeds a try. I'm grateful to the Ciclops group who sponsored the webcast. While not quite like being there, all three of us felt like we were watching a real eclipse -- which we were.
The crescent moon rises at dawn over a serene Lake Superior Saturday morning. Credit: Lyle Anderson
The moon was so recently a morning crescent, nicely captured by Lyle Anderson in the photo above, passed through new moon phase yesterday where it did a fine job covering the sun, and tonight re-enters the evening sky. While too near the sun to see from mid-northern latitudes, a very thin crescent should be visible shortly after sunset Tuesday.
The moon returns Tuesday night to the evening sky when it will be visible very low in the west 20 minutes to a half-hour after sunset. Venus will be easy to see but Mercury may require binoculars. Created with Stellarium
When Lyle sent his photo, he also related some night-sky reminiscences while working on the deck crew of the Great Lakes iron ore carrier Edward L. Ryerson. Here's Lyle in his own words:
"During my years on the Ryerson I would always have my 20 x 80 binoculars with me on my night watch in the pilot house, and of course it was kept dark to preserve night vision with low level red and green lights to light the instrument panels. The Milky Way on clear nights with no moon on mid-Lake Superior we would have some of the most beautiful views of the night sky that I have ever had. I would go to an open window and rest part of my arms on the sill and scan areas of Sagittarius, which was always a favorite area -- so interesting.
Northern Lake Michigan had nice dark skies but southern Lake Michigan -- terrible. All of upper Lake Huron was good with very dark sky. Those beautiful northern lights and so many spectacular meteors. We would carry groups of 8 passengers every trip during June, July and August, and they would ask us to wake them if the northern lights came out. They would get up to the pilot house and sometimes be overwhelmed by what they were seeing. They were mostly families of company officials who lived around the Chicago area so they seldom saw dark skies."
A younger Lyle Anderson on board the Ryerson back in the late 1970s.
Lyle's story got me to thinking how each one of us has a story to tell about the sky -- whether it's how we got interested in the first place or a memorable experience of a starry night or astronomical event like an eclipse or meteor shower. I'd like to invite you to share your tale with our readers. If you're comfortable giving your real name and a photo, all the better (but not required of course). Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please put Astro in the subject line to make it easy to spot your e-mail. Every so often I'll feature what you've sent. Thanks very much for your participation.