Post-Eclipse Update: Here is a mid-eclipse photo from my back porch.
Multiple eclipse images seen in tree shadow - Joe Cahak
It's finally here - the Great North American total solar eclipse of 2017! The amateur astronomy community has been anticipating and preparing for the event for a couple years. Astronomy magazine (to which I subscribe) dedicated the entire August issue to providing detailed information on viewing suggestions along the entire path. Traffic from the Pacific Coast of Oregon to the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina will probably be a challenge as people vie for positions as close to the centerline as possible. Those who manage optimal locations will see about 2 minutes and 40 seconds of total darkness. Others within the 68-mile-wide path of totality will see from a fraction of a second up to the full extent.
According to a calculator on the Vox website, we in Erie will only see a 76.2% eclipse, which will barely darken our skies. The app on the webpage detects your location and displays an animation showing the moon's transition across the sun, with an approximation of the relative degree of darkness as it passes. According to astronomers who have witnessed many solar eclipses in varying degrees of totality, you need to be within about 95% to have a very noticeable change in light level. They compare it to a dark cloud moving in front of the sun. By comparison, a full moon at perigee reflects around 12% of the sun's light.
Melanie and I had planned to drive the 475 miles down to South Carolina to view the eclipse in the path of totality, but won't be able to go so we'll just have to rely on reports of others. Bummer. If I manage to live until April 8, 2024 - a mere 6-½ years away, the next total solar eclipse will run right through my back yard (see 2024 eclipse map to right). That will be convenient.
Amateur radio operators have a full slate of events, tests, and measurements planned for the day. Visit the ARRL website for information about the Solar Eclipse QSO Party and other goings on. Data regarding propagation properties along the path of totality will provide indirect observation of ionospheric activity in the various layers. Will the F1 and F2 layers which typically combine at nightfall do so during totality? Direct measurements of the ionosphere were first made in the 1950s, with much effort being expended during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 (see "Electronics and the IGY," Part I and Part II, in the February and March 1958, respectively, Radio Electronics magazine). Measurements have been made previously during total eclipses in other parts of the world, of course, but this is the first chance American Hams have had the opportunity since February 6, 1979. Hams participated in the August 31, 1932, total solar eclipse which crossed the United States, whereupon a report titled, "Amateur Observations During the Total Eclipse of the Sun," appeared in the January 1933 issue of QST magazine.
NASA has a web page with tips for viewing the solar eclipse safely. I have a couple large pieces of#14 welders glass to use. Lots of stories have appeared recently about how to protect your pets' eyes in case they're curious (or unlucky) enough to look at the sun during the partial eclipse phases. Be sure to not let babies or incapacitated people face the sun during that time, either. Finally, be vigilant during the eclipse, especially during totality, since there are plenty of scumbag people who will be roaming about looking for victims. Don't let the criminals exploit what they believe will be a gun-free zone - if you get my drift!
Posted August 21, 2017