There’s a great reason to look up this weekend and hope for clear skies! On May 20-21 an annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible from a 300 kilometer-wide track that crosses eastern Asia, the northern Pacific Ocean and the western United States. An annular eclipse means the Moon will not cover the Sun completely, and so when the Moon is directly in front of the Sun, there will be a bright ring of visible light on the surrounding edges, creating a so-called ‘ring of fire.’ The eclipse begins at 20:56 UTC (16:56 EDT US time) on May 20, and ends at 02:49 UTC May 21 (22:49 on May 20 EDT).
Not in that swath? See the map below, but you may be able to see a partial eclipse if you are in Asia, the Pacific and the western two-thirds of North America.
If you take any images of the eclipse (again, know what you are doing and be careful!) please share them with us via our Flickr page, or send them in via email. We’ll have a grand eclipse gallery of images from around the world!
Some of the spacecraft will also be observing the eclipse and will provide images and movies, such as the JAXA/NASA Hinode mission. You will be able to see the images and videos here, and as an added bonus Hinode’s X-ray Telescope will be able to provide images of the peaks and valleys of the lunar surface.
Unfortunately, the orbits the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) will not provide them with a view of the eclipse.
It was the final lunar eclipse of the year, and the last total lunar eclipse event for the western portion of the Americas until 2014, so skywatchers took advantage of clear skies, and many have shared their images and videos with Universe Today. Enjoy the views! For many of the images you can click on them and see larger versions on our Flickr group.
Above is a view in Colorado, taken by Patrick Cullis, showing the Indian Peaks with the eclipsing Moon setting overhead, taken during the lunar eclipse in the early morning hours of December 10, 2011. The Indian Peaks are a series of peaks on the continental divide near Boulder, Colorado. “The Moon set behind the continental divide right before totality, but it was still an awesome sight,” Cullis said.
Below is a video a to-die-for view of the eclipse over the Pacific Ocean.
It was an event that hasn’t happened in 11 years and won’t happen again until 2018. The total lunar eclipse of June 15, 2011 didn’t disappoint. Take a look at some of the amazing images taken by astrophotographers from around the world — well, the “eastern” side of the world anyway, as the eclipse wasn’t visible in North and South America. Our lead image is a fantastic mosaic taken by Marko Posavec in Koprivnica, Croatia. We have another image by Posavic below, but you can see more of his images via his Twitter account.
The redness of the Moon during the eclipse was perhaps enhanced by the major volcanic eruption in Chile which has polluted the stratosphere with a haze, making the eclipse appear dark red. This image was taken by Leonard Mercer in Malta. You can see more of his images at his website.
Here’s a nice shot of the eclipsed Moon in Pisa, Italy, sent via Twitter from @UgoRom.
Here’s two skywatching events at once: and ISS flyby along with the eclipse, taken by Marko Posavec in Croatia.
Julie Grise from Adelaide in South Australia said “It clouded out here for totality – but between the clouds I managed a few images.”
Here’s a video from Nahum Chazarra, sent via Twitter taken from el Llano de la Perdiz, in Granada, Spain:
The two images above are from Janet Pontin from Vientiane, Lao PDR in southeast Asia, who wrote to say, “We were very pleased that the thick clouds that had been sitting all evening cleared away, mostly, as the eclipse went underway. Complete view was from around 2.30 to 3am our time.”
Longtime UT reader Gadi Eidelheit from Israel took this image and said, “We had over 600 parents and children at the school where I did the observation.” A picture of Gadi and part of the group is below. He said the IAA (Israel Astronomy Association) volunteers operated about 30 observation places, and the eclipse was covered in all major papers, TV networks and news sites.”
This beautiful panorama was taken near Ankara, Turkey and sent in by M. Rasid Tugral.
What will the June 15th lunar eclipse look like from the Moon itself? Luckily, we’ve got the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter circling the Moon, and we can find out. However, most of the instruments on LRO will be powering down during the eclipse, but one instrument, called Diviner, will stay on. “It will be like a nap with one eye open!” the LRO spacecraft said on Facebook. The Diviner Lunar Radiometer instrument will record how quickly different areas on the moon’s day side cool off during the eclipse. Since large boulders cool more slowly than a fine-grained or dusty surface, Diviner will be able to see what areas are covered with boulders and what regions are blanketed by dust. Continue reading “How LRO Plans to Watch the Lunar Eclipse from the Moon”
Here’s a unique view of the January 4 partial solar eclipse: ESA’s sun-watching microsatellite Proba-2 captured the conjunction of the spheres as the Sun, Moon and Earth all lined up in front of it. Shortly after the Moon partially blocked Proba-2’s view of the Sun, the satellite flew into Earth’s shadow. At that point – when the video seen here goes dark – the Sun, Moon, Earth and Proba-2 were all on the same line in space.
Some of the world will be able to greet the first part of the new year with a solar eclipse. On the morning of Tuesday, January 4, 2011, an eclipse of the Sun will be widely visible across Europe and as far east as India. The eclipse won’t be visible in North and South America, however. Jay Pasachoff of Williams College in the US is the Chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Eclipses, and says that even at a maximum, this eclipse will be only partial, with some of the Sun always visible. Because the Sun is too bright to look at safely, Pasachoff stresses that special solar filters or projection methods should always be used to protect the eyes.
Pasachoff will be in Tel Aviv to view the eclipse, and since partial eclipses are usually not very scientifically useful, he is looking forward to just enjoying the eclipse instead of scrambling to set up various scientific equipment.
“Partial eclipses are fun, and much more relaxing for a total-eclipse scientist like me, since the pressure on me is low and nothing happens too fast,” he told Universe Today. “Seeing a partial or other solar eclipse happen right on time, to the second, can be inspirational to students to study hard so that they, too, can understand the Universe.”
This will be Pasachoff’s 52nd solar eclipse.
Radio astronomers do find partial eclipses useful, as with a radio telescope, or in the ultraviolet or x-rays from spacecraft, scientists can use the timing of when solar active regions are covered and uncovered to study the structure of solar storms in better detail than is otherwise possible, Pasachoff said.
For this eclipse, people in Western Europe will find the Sun already eclipsed as the day begins, with the eclipse lasting about 80 minutes more. On January 4, the Moon will gradually cover the Sun, over a period of about 3 hours. At maximum, the eclipse will be at the horizon at sunrise in England, with 75% of the Sun’s diameter covered, and then gradually emerge over the next hour and 20 minutes. In Paris or Berlin, 80% of the Sun will be covered near sunrise. Farther east, the Sun will be a bit higher in the sky at maximum, 22° high with 67% covered in Athens. In Israel and Egypt, the Sun will be 33° high with over 55% coverage at maximum.
The most important thing, Pasachoff said, is to view an eclipse safely.
“Whenever the ordinary Sun is visible, even only part of it, you should not stare at it,” he said. “Special solar filters are available cheaply, or dense welders’ glass will do. Another method of seeing that the Sun is eclipsed is to punch a hole a few millimeters across in a piece of cardboard and hold it up to the Sun while you face away from the Sun and see the Sun’s image projected on the ground or onto another piece of cardboard. This method is called projection with a pinhole camera. It is rare that haze or clouds are sufficient to reduce the Sun’s intensity enough that one can see a partially covered Sun safely.”
2011 is unusual in that it has only four partial solar eclipses, for all of which the darkest part of the Moon’s shadow passes off the Earth’s surface. In 2012, an annular eclipse in which the Moon’s disk is a little too small to cover the entire Sun will pass from Japan over the Pacific to California and farther into the U.S. on May 20. On November 14, 2012, a total solar eclipse, in which it becomes dark as twilight, will start in northeastern Australia and cross a broad swath of the South Pacific.
What do you do if you’re watching the lunar eclipse but don’t have your camera? Make a sketch, just like the astronomers of old. Amateur astronomer Ted Judah from California enjoyed the eclipse, but since he was away on a trip with his family and “there was no room for my astrophotography equipment in the car,” he said, Ted resorted to drawing what he witnessed. Lovely.
Below is another artistic view of the eclipse, although taken by a camera.
Tavi Greiner took this image from her yard in Shallotte, North Carolina. Her description: “The darkened sky beneath Totality’s copper Moon reveals Orion to the left and Pleiades to the right.” See more of her images at “A Sky Full of Stars.”
Although the word “transit” can have many meanings, here on Universe Today, we’re talking about astronomical transits. This is where one object in space moves directly in front of another, partly obscuring it from view.
The most famous example of an astronomical transit is a solar eclipse. From our vantage point on Earth, the Moon appears to pass directly in front of the Sun, obscuring it, and darkening the sky. When seen from space, the Moon casts a shadow on the surface of the Earth; only people within that shadowed area actually see the transit.
In order to have a transit, you need to have a closer object, a more distant object, and then an observer. When all three objects are lined up in a straight line, you’ll get a transit. There can be transits of Mercury and Venus across the surface of the Sun, or a transit of Earth across the Sun, seen from Jupiter. We can also see the transit of moons across the surface of their planets. Jupiter often has moons transiting in front of it.
Astronomers use the transit technique to discover extrasolar planets orbiting other stars. When a planet passes in front of a star, it dims the light from the star slightly. And then the star brightens again as the planet moves away. By carefully measuring the brightness of the star, astronomers are able to detect if they have planets orbiting them.
Transits are also helpful for studying the atmospheres of objects in the Solar System. Astronomers discovered that Pluto has a tenuous atmosphere by studying how it dimmed the light from a more distant star. As Pluto began transiting in front of the star, its atmosphere partly obscured the star, changing the amount of light observed. Astronomers were then able to work out the chemicals in Pluto’s atmosphere.
The next transit of Mercury will occur in 2016, and the next transit of Venus is scheduled to occur in 2012.
We have written many articles about astronomical transit for Universe Today. Here’s an article about the transit of Mercury, and here’s an article about the transit of Venus.
A group of astronomers are now on the mysterious Easter Island, one of the few solid places to stand on Earth where a total solar eclipse will be visible on July 11, 2010. The majority of the eclipse’s path is over the ocean, so this will be one of the least observed eclipses ever. “This is one of the most interesting things that is possible for anyone on Earth to see in one of the most interesting places on the Earth that people can go,” said Jay Pasachoff from Williams College, who is the Chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Eclipses. This will be his 51st eclipse.
While the eclipse is thousands of miles long in its is path of totality on Earth, it is just a few hundred miles wide. It will pass through French Polynesia on the Cook Islands, but, Pasachoff said, it doesn’t go through any of the main islands. “It misses Tahiti, but there are some atolls off the side of the path, and some eclipse scientists and ecotourists will be on cruise ships that are going into the path of totality. There will also be a group on an airplane observing the eclipse and we hope to compare all the other observations with the ones we get from Easter Island,” he said.
Easter Island is 4023 km (2,500 miles) west of Chile, and is famous for the Moai, giant statutes that were left by a Polynesian culture that mysteriously disappeared. But while the statues’ constant gaze look outward, all human eyes will be on the skies on July 11.
“The actual four minutes and forty-five seconds of totality that we are scheduled to have at Easter Island will be very exciting, as the last sliver of the sun is covered we can then take off the protective filters we’ve been using,” Pasachoff said, “and look at the next few minutes without any protection because the solar corona is about the same brightness as the full moon and is equally safe to look at. In fact we’ve been having a debate recently about whether we can get a very brief warning on the so-called eclipse glasses that many people use because those glasses are only for when any of the everyday sun is visible. They are so dense that they block the solar corona entirely, and the few people who don’t understand what is going on enough to take those glasses off during totality miss the whole event. There are people who have missed past eclipses by not knowing they had to take their glasses off.”
Pasachoff is joined by Professor Marek Demianski and two students. They will be carrying out high-resolution imaging to look for motions in the corona and to follow the varying magnetic-field configuration in the solar-corona as a function of the solar-activity cycle. Though the sunspot cycle remains in an extreme low, some other indications of solar activity have been increasing and we are eager to see the condition of the low and middle corona. They expect to see motions at least in polar plumes.
Also, they will be using the images to fill in gaps between the observations of the corona on the solar disk taken with NASA’s new Solar Dynamics Observatory and the observations of the outer corona taken with the Naval Research Laboratory’s coronagraph on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Pasachoff and his team have contributed to similar images for the past several eclipses but now will have the improved SDO images as part of their montage. Several of the cameras will be computer controlled using software called Solar Eclipse Maestro written by Xavier Jubier of France.
Universe Today hopes to talk with Pasachoff after the eclipse to hear about his experiences.
The Williams College team is accompanied by a documentary crew filming for National Geographic Channel, and their activities will be covered in a special program entitled Easter Island Eclipse partly pre-recorded and partly expected to have new eclipse footage that will air on the National Geographic Channel on the evening of July 11th, at 11 pm.
Here are some resource Pasachoff provided for the eclipse:
On Sunday, July 11th: total solar eclipse on Easter Island (same time zone as Mountain Time in the US)
Partial eclipse begins 12:40:36 Altitude of Sun: 40°
Totality begins 14:08:30 Altitude of Sun: 40°
Totality ends 14:13:10 Altitude of Sun: 39°
Partial eclipse ends 15:34:16 Altitude of Sun: 32°
Duration of totality: 4 minutes and 40 seconds
Times in UT:
18:40 UT 1st contact
20:08 UT 2nd contact: total eclipse begins
20:13 UT 3rd contact: total eclipse ends
Update: I just received a note from Robin Zimmerman at DISH Network, and for those of you who have the DISH Network, there is a special channel, DishEARTH, Ch. 287, that features live 24/7 views of the earth from space and this Sunday the eclipse be shown. Robin said their network will allow people in the US to see the phenomena, live.