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the dragon’s dinner

May 22, 2012

Since I don’t have too much going on down here on earth, I rely on the heavens to provide me with entertainment. Well, the super moon was nice– not super, of course (honestly), but worth going outside for. Nothing compared to a solar eclipse, however.

I would have liked to go up to the park, where I’ve taken so many pictures of Mount Diablo at sunset, and the western horizon is long and clear. However, I was dog-sitting (you heard me), so I was obliged to stay home. Not really a problem– I wasn’t looking at it directly, and my main ambition was to post snapshots of eclipse shadows like they do in Sky and Telescope.

But oh heck! Romick In Oakley beat me to it. Not that he knows I exist, but his are nice, so I’ll just let you look at them, and save mine for somewhere else.

We weren’t in the path for the full annular eclipse, unfortunately. But I think ours was about an 85% partial, which is the deepest I remember seeing. Probably the most astonishing thing was the drop in the light level, which occurred quite suddenly. It later returned to its normal intensity, despite being so late in the evening. Very very cool.

Here is what I used to observe with:

what I used to watch the eclipse

A pinhole in a index card, projected on a sheet of white cardboard, or alternatively, a projection through a little freebie monocular which up to now has only been good for getting a slightly closer look at something out in the river, or trying to figure out why there’s a fire truck parked across the street.

Actually, this was its finest moment.

Of course, in the zone where the eclipse was full, things were more dramatic. I read something about how stunning it would look in e.g. Albuquerque, where the sun would be very near the horizon, and I received some great reports from there. Also a few excellent links to pictures via the TrekBBS. Worth getting the equipment to watch it directly, if it’s ever like this!

Anyway, I observed as much as I could from the backyard, till the house began to block the view. When I went out into the front yard, I found a bunch of neighborhood kids sitting on our steps under the tree.

Now, I really was DYING to tell them that there was a solar eclipse going on, but since I figured the first thing eleven-year-old kids would do is look directly at the sun, especially if you told them not to, I just kept quiet and went around holding up my cardboard, and snapping pictures of tree leaves, and let them think I was a crazy witch. They seemed to accept it all with equanimity.

I did want a picture of my cardboard projection, which was surprisingly lovely, but as I was unable to hold and operate the cardboard, the monocular, and the camera all at once, I settled for trying to project it onto the telephone pole, and snapping that with my left hand.

Which I succeeded in doing, but meanwhile, I also accidentally took a video of the process, which I happen to kind of like, so I’ll share that with you instead. Wait for it. And remember, you should be looking at the telephone pole, not the ice cream truck.

It’s all strangely apocalyptic, don’t you think? Anyway, I was there watching the first bite at 5:16, and I observed all the way through till the last little bite, although I lost my head and forgot to look for Venus. I was just going out to assure myself that the sun had reverted to its normal shape, when one of the dogs saw the wolf who lives next door come loping into our yard and threw herself against the window. So, I had to take it on faith. But everything seems fine… for now.

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