Our Guide to the Bizarre April 29th Solar Eclipse

Will anyone see next week’s solar eclipse? On April 29th, an annular solar eclipse occurs over a small D-shaped 500 kilometre wide region of Antarctica. This will be the second eclipse for 2014 — the first was the April 15th total lunar eclipse — and the first solar eclipse of the year, marking the end of the first eclipse season. 2014 has the minimum number of eclipses possible in one year, with four: two partial solars and two total lunars. This month’s solar eclipse is also a rarity in that it’s a non-central eclipse with one limit. That is, the center of the Moon’s shadow — known as the antumbra during an annular eclipse — will juuuust miss the Earth and instead pass scant kilometres above the Antarctic continent.

The "footprint" of the April 29th solar eclipse. Credit:
The “footprint” of the April 29th solar eclipse. Credit: Eclipse predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC.

A solar eclipse is termed “non-central with one limit” when the center of the Moon’s umbra or antumbra just misses the Earth and grazes it on one edge. Jean Meeus and Fred Espenak note that out of 3,956 annular eclipses occurring from 2000 BCE to 3000 AD, only 68 (1.7%) are of the non-central variety. An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is too distant to cover the disk of the Sun, resulting in a bright “annulus” or “ring-of-fire” eclipse. A fine example of just such an eclipse occurred over Australia last year on May 10th, 2013. An annular eclipse crossed the United States on May 10th, 1994 and will next be seen from the continental U.S. on October 14th 2023. But of course, we’ll see an end the “total solar eclipse drought” long before that, when a total solar eclipse crosses the U.S. on August 21st, 2017!

An animated .gif of the April 29th eclipse. Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair.
An animated .gif of the April 29th eclipse. Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair.

The “centrality” of a solar eclipse or how close a solar eclipse comes to crossing the central disk of the Earth is defined as its “gamma,” with 0 being a central eclipse, and 1 as the center of the Moon’s shadow passing 1 Earth radii away from central. All exclusively partial eclipses have a gamma greater than 1. The April 29th eclipse is also unique in that its gamma is very nearly 1.000… in fact, combing the 5,000 year catalog of eclipses reveals that no solar eclipse from a period of 2000 B.C. to 3000 A.D. comes closer to this value. The solar eclipses of October 3rd, 2043 and March 18th, 1950 are, however very similar in their geometry. Guy Ottewell notes in his 2014 Astronomical Calendar that the eclipses of August 29th, 1486 and January 8th, 2141 also come close to a gamma of 1.000. On the other end of the scale, the solar eclipse of July 11th 1991 had a gamma of nearly zero. This eclipse is part of saros series 148 and is member 21 of 75. This series began in 1653 and plays out until 2987 AD. This saros will also produce one more annular eclipse on May 9th 2032 before transitioning to a hybrid and then producing its first total solar eclipse on May 31st, 2068. But enough eclipse-geekery. Do not despair, as several southern Indian Ocean islands and all of Australia will still witness a fine partial solar eclipse from this event. Antarctica has the best circumstances as the Sun brushes the horizon, but again, the tiny sliver of “annularity” touches down over an uninhabited area between the Dumont d’Urville and Concordia  stations currently occupied by France… and it just misses both! And remember, its astronomical fall headed towards winter “down under,” another strike against anyone witnessing it from the polar continent. A scattering of islands in the southern Indian Ocean will see a 55% eclipsed Sun. Circumstances for Australia are slightly better, with Perth seeing a 55% eclipsed Sun and Sydney seeing a 50% partial eclipse.

The view of the eclipse from multiple locations across the Australian continent at 7:00 UT on April 29th. Created by the author using Stellarium.
The view of the eclipse from multiple locations across the Australian continent at 7:00 UT on April 29th. Created by the author using Stellarium.

Darwin,  Bali Indonesia and surrounding islands will see the Moon just nick the Sun and take a less than 20% “bite” out of it. Observers in Sydney and eastern Australia also take note: the eclipse occurs low to the horizon to the west at sunset, and will offer photographers the opportunity to grab the eclipse with foreground objects. Viewing a partial solar eclipse requires proper eye protection throughout all phases. The safest method to view a partial solar eclipse is via projection, and this can be done using a telescope (note that Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes are bad choice for this method, as they can heat up quickly!) or nothing more sophisticated than a spaghetti strainer to create hundreds of little “pinhole projectors.”

A simulation of the view that no one will see: the annular eclipse one kilometre above latitude 71S longitude 131E above the Antarctic. Created using Stellarium.
A simulation of the view that no one will see: the annular eclipse as seen hovering one kilometre above the Antarctic at latitude 71S longitude 131E . Created using Stellarium.

And although no human eyes may witness the annular portion of this eclipse, some orbiting automated ones just might. We ran some simulations using updated elements, and the European Space Agency’s Sun observing Proba-2 and the joint NASA/JAXA Hinode mission might just “thread the keyhole” and will witness a brief central eclipse for a few seconds on April 29th: And though there’ll be few webcasts of this remote eclipse, the ever-dependable Slooh is expected to carry the eclipse on April 29th. Planning an ad hoc broadcast of the eclipse? Let us know! As the eclipse draws near, we’ll be looking at the prospects for ISS transits and more. Follow us as @Astroguyz as we look at these and other possibilities and tell our usual “tales of the saros”. And although this event marks the end of eclipse season, its only one of two such spans for 2014… tune in this October, when North America will be treated to another total lunar eclipse on the 8th and a partial solar eclipse on the 23rd… more to come! Send in those eclipse pics to the Universe Today Flickr community… you just might find yourself featured in this space!

Hybrid Solar Eclipse Images from Around the World, November 3, 2013

Many lucky people around the world were treated to a an unusual “hybrid” solar eclipse today — so called because the extent to which the Sun was blocked out varied around the world. Those along North America’s east coast and the northern half of South America saw a brilliant Sun partially eclipsed by the Moon just at dawn, as in our lead image from South Carolina, USA. But regions like equatorial Africa had a total eclipsed Sun for about a minute, while those in southern Europe, the Middle East, were able to see an “annular” or partial, eclipse. This type of variable eclipse is rare — the last time one occurred was Nov. 20, 1854 and the next one won’t happen until Oct. 17, 2172! This was also the last eclipse of the year, and photographers were out to capture the views.

UPDATE: We’ve now added more images, including this new one from Uganda that shows totality:

The moment of totality of the Nov. 3, 2013 solar eclipse, as viewed from Owiny Village in Uganda.  The photo was taken with a Canon Rebel T1i camera, using a Tamron f/2.8 28-75mm lens, unfiltered. Credit and copyright: Helen Lin.
The moment of totality of the Nov. 3, 2013 solar eclipse, as viewed from Owiny Village in Uganda. The photo was taken with a Canon Rebel T1i camera, using a Tamron f/2.8 28-75mm lens, unfiltered. Credit and copyright: Helen Lin.

See more below, and we’ll continue to add images as they come in.

Here’s a gorgeous timelapse by Steve Ellington, who shot this from the US east coast:

The Nov. 3, 2013 partial solar eclipse observed and captured from Malta. Credit and copyright: Leonard E. Mercer.
The Nov. 3, 2013 partial solar eclipse observed and captured from Malta. Credit and copyright: Leonard E. Mercer.
The partial eclipse of the Sun as seen from Saida, Lebanon on 3/11/2013. The pictures span the beginning to the maximum eclipse as seen from this location. This eclipse was a rare "hybrid" eclipse, appearing as either an annular or total eclipse from different locations on Earth. These images were taken with an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope fitted, of course, with a solar filter. Credit and copyright: Ziad El-Zaatari
The partial eclipse of the Sun as seen from Saida, Lebanon on 3/11/2013. The pictures span the beginning to the maximum eclipse as seen from this location. This eclipse was a rare “hybrid” eclipse, appearing as either an annular or total eclipse from different locations on Earth. These images were taken with an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope fitted, of course, with a solar filter. Credit and copyright: Ziad El-Zaatari

The following two images were sent to us by Victor Pinheiro from Espargos, Sal Island, one of 10 islands that make up the Republic of Cabo Verde, in the central Atlantic Ocean, 570 kilometers off the coast of Western Africa. Africa had some of the best views of the eclipse, with some areas seeing totality.

This image of the Nov. 3, 2013 solar eclipse was taken from the city of Espargos on the island of Sal, one of the island that make up the archipelago of the Republic of Capo Verde, off the coast of Africa.  Equipment: Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, with window film to reduce light. Credit and copyright: Victor Pinheiro.
This image of the Nov. 3, 2013 solar eclipse was taken from the city of Espargos on the island of Sal, one of the island that make up the archipelago of the Republic of Capo Verde, off the coast of Africa. Equipment: Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, with window film to reduce light. Credit and copyright: Victor Pinheiro.
Another image of the Nov. 3 solar eclipse taken from the island of Sal, Republic of Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa, using a different color window film. Credit and copyright: Victor Pinheiro.
Another image of the Nov. 3 solar eclipse taken from the island of Sal, Republic of Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa, using a different color window film. Credit and copyright: Victor Pinheiro.
The partial solar eclipse on Nov. 3, 2013 at its peak over Israel. Credit and copyright: Gadi Eidelheit.
The partial solar eclipse on Nov. 3, 2013 at its peak over Israel. Credit and copyright: Gadi Eidelheit.

The image above and below were captured by Gadi Eidelheit from Israel. You can see his entire collection of images from the eclipse at his website.

Another view of the Nov. 3, 2013 partial solar eclipse as seen from Israel. Credit and copyright: Gadi Eidelheit.
Another view of the Nov. 3, 2013 partial solar eclipse as seen from Israel. Credit and copyright: Gadi Eidelheit.
A spectacular 'mirage' view of the partial solar eclipse rising into the clouds, as seen from Fort Pierce, Florida, on  November 3, 2013. Credit and copyright: John O'Connor/nasatech.
A spectacular ‘mirage’ view of the partial solar eclipse rising into the clouds, as seen from Fort Pierce, Florida, on November 3, 2013. Credit and copyright: John O’Connor/nasatech.
A partially eclipsed Sun rises over the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 3, 2013. Credit and copyright: David Dickinson.
A partially eclipsed Sun rises over the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 3, 2013. Credit and copyright: David Dickinson.
The partial hybrid solar eclipse of November 3, 2013 was photographed through intermittent cloud cover over a wheat field in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 'I was anxiously awaiting a break in the cloud cover to get a clear shot; suddenly, about fifteen minutes from the conclusion, a small clearing made the partial eclipse visible. The colors of the clouds and sunrise made this a morning I will not forget!' Credit and copyright: Marion Haligowski.
The partial hybrid solar eclipse of November 3, 2013 was photographed through intermittent cloud cover over a wheat field in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. ‘I was anxiously awaiting a break in the cloud cover to get a clear shot; suddenly, about fifteen minutes from the conclusion, a small clearing made the partial eclipse visible. The colors of the clouds and sunrise made this a morning I will not forget!’ Credit and copyright: Marion Haligowski.
The eclipsed Sun, with sunspots, as seen from Madrid, Spain. Credit and copyright: Álvaro Ibáñez.
The eclipsed Sun, with sunspots, as seen from Madrid, Spain. Credit and copyright: Álvaro Ibáñez.
The Nov. 3, 2013  eclipse seen from Johannesburg, South Africa taken handheld with a Canon 5D mkII and 24-70mm lens and neutral density filter. Credit and copyright: Cory Schmitz
The Nov. 3, 2013 eclipse seen from Johannesburg, South Africa taken handheld with a Canon 5D mkII and 24-70mm lens and neutral density filter. Credit and copyright: Cory Schmitz
The partially eclipsed Sun disappearing into the clouds, as seen from New York City, Nov. 3, 2013 at 6:30 A.M. Credit and copyright: Ben Berry.
The partially eclipsed Sun disappearing into the clouds, as seen from New York City, Nov. 3, 2013 at 6:30 A.M. Credit and copyright: Ben Berry.
About 3% of the Sun is 'missing' in this picturesque view of the hybrid solar eclipse on Nov. 3, 2013, as seen from Ankara, Turkey. Credit and copyright: Yüksel Kenaroglu.
About 3% of the Sun is ‘missing’ in this picturesque view of the hybrid solar eclipse on Nov. 3, 2013, as seen from Ankara, Turkey. Credit and copyright: Yüksel Kenaroglu.
Solar eclipse New York Sunrise November 3, 2013,  taken near JFK Airport and the Cross Bay Bridge. Credit and copyright: astroval1 on Flickr.
Solar eclipse New York Sunrise November 3, 2013, taken near JFK Airport and the Cross Bay Bridge. Credit and copyright: astroval1 on Flickr.
The Nov. 3 partial solar eclipse as seen from Long Branch beach, New Jersey, taken with a Canon Rebel T2i camera 250 mm zoom. Credit and copyright: Jennifer Khordi.
The Nov. 3 partial solar eclipse as seen from Long Branch beach, New Jersey, taken with a Canon Rebel T2i camera 250 mm zoom. Credit and copyright: Jennifer Khordi.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Rare ‘Hybrid’ Solar Eclipse on November 3, 2013: How to See It

It’s almost upon us. The final eclipse of 2013 occurs this coming weekend on Sunday, November 3rd. This will be the fifth eclipse overall, and the second solar eclipse of 2013. This will also be the only eclipse this year that features a glimpse of totality.

This eclipse is of the rare hybrid variety— that is, it will be an annular eclipse along the very first 15 seconds of its track before transitioning to a total as the Moon’s shadow sweeps just close enough to the Earth to cover the disk of the Sun along the remainder of its track.

An animation of the path of the November 3rd hybrid solar eclipse. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center).
An animation of the path of the November 3rd hybrid solar eclipse. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center).

How rare are hybrid solar eclipse? Of the 11,898 solar eclipses listed over a 5,000 year span from 1999 BC to 3000 AD in Fred Espenak’s Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses, only 569, or 4.8% are hybrids.

Who can see this eclipse?

People from northern South America, across the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and up through the Canadian Maritimes will see a brief partial solar eclipse finishing up around 30 minutes after local sunrise. The brief annular “ring of fire” portion of the eclipse begins at sunrise just ~1,000 kilometres east of Jacksonville, Florida, as it races eastward across the Atlantic. See our timeline, below.

Eclipse prospects for the US East Coast. (Courtesy of Michael Zeiler @EclipseMaps)
Eclipse prospects for the US East Coast. (Courtesy of Michael Zeiler @EclipseMaps)

Nearly all of Africa and the southern Mediterranean region including Spain will see partial phases of the eclipse, while greatest totality occurs just off of the coast of Liberia and heads for first landfall on the African continent over Wonga Wongue Reserve in Gabon. At this point, the duration of totality will already have shrunk back down to 1 minute and 7 seconds. The shadow of the Moon will then cross central Africa, headed for a short but brilliant sunset total eclipse over Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The global path of this weekends eclipse-click to enlarge. (Credit: Michael Zeiler, @EclipseMaps).
The global path of this weekends eclipse-click to enlarge. (Credit: Michael Zeiler, @EclipseMaps).

This particular eclipse part of saros series 143 and is member 23 of the 72 eclipses in the cycle. The first eclipse in this saros occurred on March 7th, 1617, and the last one will occur on April 23rd, 2897.

Saros 143 also has a checkered place in  eclipse history. The last eclipse in this series crossed south eastern Asia on October 24th, 1995.

The first detailed picture of a solar eclipse was also taken of a saros 143 member on July 28, 1851. And one saros later, a total solar eclipse on August 7th, 1869 may have saved the butt of astronomer and explorer George Davidson while traversing the wilds of Alaska. And one more saros period later,  Dmitri Mendeleev (he of the modern periodic table) observed the total solar eclipse of August 19th, 1887 from a balloon.

A daguerreotype image of the 1851 eclipse captured by Berkowski of the  Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia. (Public domain image).
A daguerreotype image of the 1851 eclipse captured by Berkowski of the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia. (Public domain image).

We’ve compiled a brief worldwide timeline for the November 3rd hybrid eclipse. Keep in mind, the shift back off of Daylight Saving Time occurs on the same morning as the eclipse for North America, putting the U.S. East Coast  once again back to -5 hours off of Universal Time (UT):

10:04 UT: The partial phases of the eclipse begin.

11:05:17 UT: annular phases of the eclipse begin.

11:05:36 UT: The eclipse transitions from an annular to a total along its track.

12:46: The point of greatest eclipse, occurring off of the SW coast of Liberia along the coast of Africa. The path will be 57 kilometres wide at this point with a maximum duration for totality at 1 minute & 40 seconds.

14:27 UT: The total phases of the eclipse end.

15:28 UT: Partial phases end.

Remember that solar safety is paramount while observing an eclipse during all partial phases. This is especially critical, as millions of viewers along the U.S. East Coast are poised to catch the eclipse at sunrise over the Atlantic on Sunday. Use only glasses designed specifically for eclipse viewing or welder’s glass #14. One project headed by Astronomers Without Borders is also working to provide eclipse glasses to schools in Africa.

Students in Tanzania demonstrating proper eclipse viewing safety. (Credit: Astronomers Without Borders).
Students in Tanzania demonstrating proper eclipse viewing safety. (Credit: Astronomers Without Borders).

Projecting the Sun onto a wall or a piece of paper is also a safe method to observe the eclipse. Construction of a Sun Gun, a pinhole projector, or even using a spaghetti strainer or colander to project the partially eclipsed sun are all fun projects to try.

Shooting pictures of the rising eclipse is also possible using a DSLR. To capture the disk of the Sun plus an outline of the foreground, you’ll want to use a combination of low ISO 100 and a fast shutter speed (1/4000 or faster) and a zoom lens of at least 200mm or greater. Keep in mind, DO NOT look at the Sun through the camera’s view finder— simply set the focus to infinity and aim via projection. It’s worth practicing your technique a morning or two prior to the main event!

As the partial phase of the eclipse progresses, keep an eye out for “tiny crescents” that may litter the ground. These are caused by gaps in things such as leaves, latticework, etc that may act as natural “pinhole projectors”. Those lucky enough to stand in the path of totality may snare a look at shadow bands sweeping across the landscape as totality approaches, as well as catch a brief glimpse of Baily’s Beads and the pearly white corona of the Sun.

Totality will last less than a minute across most of central Africa, giving viewers a very hurried view before partial phases commence once more. Venus will be easily visible at magnitude -4.4 just 47 degrees east of the Sun. Unfortunately, prospects aren’t great for air or seaborne viewers in the mid-Atlantic to catch sight of comet ISON during the frenzied moments of totality, which will sit 50 degrees from the Sun between magnitude +7 & +8.

The sky over Gabon during mid-eclipse. (Created by the author using Starry Nite).
The sky over Gabon during mid-eclipse. (Created by the author using Starry Nite).

Weather prospects are an all-important consideration when planning for an eclipse. Jay Anderson maintains an outstanding site with projections tailor-made for each eclipse. For the U.S. East Coast, clear skies right down to the crucial eastern horizon will be key!

A recent surge in piracy off of the West Coast of Africa may also factor into travel considerations for eclipse chasers. You can actually monitor such activities on the high seas now in near real time. Perhaps one could take a page from Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and impress any would-be-brigands with the glory of an impending solar eclipse…

Unfortunately, the International Space Station will have an orbit nearly perpendicular to the Earth-Moon-Sun syzygy, and won’t lend itself to any great prospects of a transit during the partial phases of the eclipse. ESA’s Proba-2 and JAXA’s Hinode will, however, see several partial eclipses from orbit:

Sunspot activity has also been on the upswing as of late, making for a photogenic Sun heading into the partial phases of the eclipse. A well-placed, naked eye Coronal Mass Ejection on the solar limb also isn’t out of the question. Eclipse historian and expert Michael Zeiler notes that a CME last occurred during a total solar eclipse way back in 1860.

Sunspot activity as of October 28th... will it stay active until this weekend's eclipse? (Photo by author).
Sunspot activity as of October 28th… will it stay active until this weekend’s eclipse? (Photo by author).

Totality for this eclipse passes over some wild and largely wifi free areas; few plans to broadcast the eclipse live have surfaced thus far.

Slooh plans a broadcast, as did a proposed Indiegogo project whose current status is unclear. BRCK also plans to broadcast the eclipse live from the shores of Lake Turkana, Kenya.  Got plans to webcast even the partial phases of the eclipse? Let us know!

And speaking of eclipse chasing, we plan on heading to the Florida Space Coast Sunday morning at o’dark thirty to nab the partial sunrise eclipse over the Atlantic.

And as always, the question posed immediately after totality is: when’s the next one? Well, the next annular eclipse graces Australia on April 29th, 2014. The U.S. will also see a partial solar eclipse on October 23rd next year… but totality will not touch the surface of our fair planet until a high Arctic eclipse on March 20th, 2015.

Good luck, clear skies, and safe journeys to all who are chasing after this one near and far, and don’t forget to post those pics to Universe Today’s Flickr page!

-See more of Michael Zeiler’s work at Eclipse Maps.

-Simulations were created using Starry Night Education Software.

Weekly Space Hangout – October 18, 2013: Penny4NASA, SpaceX Plans, ISON Lives!

This week for the Weekly Space Hangout, we were joined by an impressive team of space journalists and special guest John Zeller, the Founder of Space Advocates – they’re best known for their Penny4NASA campaign.

We discussed the government shutdown, cool reusable spacecraft and electric aircraft, exoplanets, non-killer asteroids, tilted planets and much much more.

Host: Fraser Cain

Special Guest: John Zeller, Founder of Space Advocates

Journalists: Alan Boyle, Brian Wang, David Dickinson, Elizabeth Howell

Government Shutdown Ends
SpaceX Reusable Spacecraft
Kepler Tilted Planets
1000 Exoplanets
Microairports with Electric VTOL Aircraft
Asteroid 2013 TV135
Upcoming Lunar Eclipse
Upcoming Solar Eclipse

We organize the Weekly Space Hangout every Friday afternoon at 12:00 pm Pacific / 3:00 pm Eastern. You can watch it on Universe Today, Google+ or the Universe Today YouTube channel.

How to Catch This Week’s ‘Ring of Fire’ Annular Eclipse

The first solar eclipse of 2013 is upon us this week, with the May 10th annular eclipse crossing northern Australia and the Pacific.

2013 is an off year for eclipses. There are five eclipses this year, three lunars and two solars. Last month’s very shallow partial lunar eclipse set us up for the annular that occurs this week. In fact, the theoretical mid-point for the first of two eclipse seasons for 2013 occurs on May 7th at 7:00 UT/ 3:00 EDT when the longitude of the Sun equals the descending node where the Moon’s path crosses the ecliptic. This further sets us up for the third and weakest eclipse of the year, a grazing penumbral on May 25th.

Animation of the path of this week's annular solar eclipse. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair).
Animation of the path of this week’s annular solar eclipse. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair).

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon eclipses the Sun while near apogee and is hence visually too small to entirely cover the Sun.

The Moon reaches apogee on May 13th at 13:32 UT/9:32AM EDT at 405,826 kilometres from Earth, just 3 days and 13 hours past New.

Annulars are currently more common than total solar eclipses, occurring 33.2% of the time in our current 5,000 year epoch versus 26.7% for total solar eclipses. The remainders are hybrid and partial eclipses. Annulars will become even more common as our Moon recedes from us at a current rate of about 3.8 centimetres a year. In about 1.4 billion years, the final brief total solar eclipse as seen from the Earth will occur. Likewise, somewhere back about 900 million years ago, the very first annular eclipse as seen from the Earth occurred.

Solar viewing with a properly  fitted glass white light filter over the aperture of a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. (Photo by Author).
Solar viewing with a properly fitted glass white light filter over the aperture of a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. (Photo by Author).

Safety is paramount while viewing an annular solar eclipse. As mentioned above, an annular eclipse throughout all phases is much brighter than you’d expect. Thus precautions to protect your eyes MUST be taken throughout ALL phases of the eclipse. Permanent eye damage can result from staring at the Sun without proper protection, and this can be near instantaneous when done through an unfiltered telescope!

We witnessed the 1994 annular eclipse from the shores of Lake Erie, and can tell you that 5% of the Sun is still extremely bright. You wouldn’t even know an annular eclipse was underway at midday unless you were looking for it. Use only filters approved for eclipse viewing that fit snugly over the FRONT of your optics. Throw those old eyepiece screw-on filters away, as they can heat up and crack!

Check filters before use and never leave a telescope aimed at the Sun unattended. Projecting the Sun is another option via a telescope or “Sun Gun,” but again, never leave such a rig unattended, and keep finderscopes covered at all times. Also, telescopes with folded optical paths such as Schmidt-Cassegrains can heat up to dangerous levels and should not be used for projecting the Sun.

The path of the May 9th/10th annular eclipse across Australia & the Pacific. (Map courtesy of Michael Zeiler at Eclipse Maps, click to enlarge).
The path of the May 9th/10th annular eclipse across Australia & the Pacific. (Map courtesy of Michael Zeiler at Eclipse Maps, click to enlarge).

This eclipse has a magnitude rating of 0.9544, meaning that 95.44% of the diameter of the Sun will be eclipsed at its maximum. Keep in mind, this leaves about 8.9% percent of the Sun, or about 1/11th of its visual area exposed. This translates to only a 2.5 magnitude drop in brightness. Thus, the brightness of the Sun will drop from magnitude -27 to -24.5, still well over 25,000 times brighter than the Full Moon!

Note that this one crosses the International dateline as well.

The action for this eclipse begins as the partial phases touch down over Western Australia at sunrise at 21:25 UT on May 9th (The morning of May 10th in Australia). The annulus makes its appearance at 22:30 UT over western Australia, with its 172 kilometre wide track racing to the northeast over Tennant Creek in the Northern Territories and crossing the Cape York peninsula as it crisscrosses the path of last November’s total solar eclipse just north of Cairns.

A closeup of the path of the annular eclipse across Australia, click to enlarge. (Courtesy of Miichael Zeiler at Eclipse Maps).
A closeup of the path of the annular eclipse across Australia, click to enlarge. (Courtesy of Miichael Zeiler at Eclipse Maps).

Note that the eclipse will be 80% partial near Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock), presenting an excellent photo op. Michael Zeiler at Eclipse Maps also points out that the area near the town of Newman in Western Australia will see an amazing sunrise annular eclipse. The path of the annular eclipse will then traverse the Coral Sea crossing over islands in eastern Papua New Guiana, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati before reaching greatest annularity with a duration of 6 minutes and 3 seconds at latitude 2° 13’ north and longitude 175° 28’ east. The path of annularity crosses over Bairiki Atoll and makes last landfall over Fanning Island north of Kiribati. Note that most of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines will see partial phases of the eclipse. The islands of Hawaii across the dateline will also see a 40-50% partial eclipse on May 9th before the event ends in the eastern Pacific at 03:25:23 UT.

Weather prospects for the eclipse look to be best along the track through Australia with less than 20% chance of cloud cover then getting progressively worse as the eclipse path tracks northeastward out to sea. The Solomon Islands region can expect cloud cover in the 60% range, while in Hawaii prospects are about 70%. Eclipser maintains a site dedicated to weather prospects for upcoming eclipses.

Solar activity is currently moderate, with several sunspot groups currently turned Earthward making for a photogenic Sun on eclipse day;

Sunspot activity as of May 5th. (Photo by Author).
Sunspot activity as of May 5th. (Photo by Author).

This eclipse belongs to saros series 138 and is number 31 of 70. This saros started with a 2% partial solar eclipse on June 6th, 1472 and will end with a 12% partial on July 11th,2716 AD having produced 3 total, 1 hybrid, 16 partial and 50 annular eclipses.

Fans of this saros may remember the last annular in this series which crossed South America on April 29th, 1995.

A sequence of eclipse pictures taken from Huntington Beach, California on May 20th, 2012. (Credit: jimnista/Universe Today flickr gallery).
A sequence of eclipse pictures taken from Huntington Beach, California on May 20th, 2012. (Credit: jimnista/Universe Today flickr gallery).

Catching a rising annular eclipse can also make for a stunning photograph. To catch the eclipse and the foreground horizon in silhouette, a DSLR with a 400mm lens running at 1/500th of a second shutter speed or faster is a good combination. Remember, you’ll have to aim this via projection. DO NOT look through the camera at the Sun! Exposures slower than 1/200th of a second are also out of the question, as you can damage the camera sensor at slow exposures.

Another cool effect to watch for is the appearance of tiny little “crescent Suns” littering the ground as sunlight streams through gaps in the tree leaves. This occurs because the gaps act like tiny little pinhole cameras.  A spaghetti strainer is also a highly scientific apparatus that can be used to mimic this effect!

Several solar observing satellites, including Hinode and the European Space Agency’s Proba-2 are poised to catch multiple partial solar eclipses on May 9th and 10th. We ran simulations of these this weekend:

Finally, if you’re like 99.99% of humanity, you’ll be watching this eclipse online. Slooh will be broadcasting this eclipse live.

Also, the eclipse will be broadcast live via the Coca-Cola Space Science Center starting at 5PM ET.

Amateur astronomer Geoff Sims @beyond_beneath will be tweeting near real time images of the eclipse from the path of annularity. Colin Legg (@colinleggphoto) will also be observing the event. Also check out:

-Australian observer Gerard Lazarus’s live feed of the eclipse.

3News in New Zealand and Sky News Australia for eclipse coverage.

Got an ad hoc eclipse broadcast planned? Let us know and we’ll include it!

The next and final solar eclipse for 2013 is a hybrid (annular along one section of the path and total along another) on November 3rd across the mid-Atlantic and central Africa. Another annular eclipse doesn’t occur until April 29th 2014, and the next total solar eclipse occurs on March 20th, 2015.

If you’re in the region be sure to catch this rare celestial event in person, or watch the action worldwide online!

 

Spacecraft Capture Solar Eclipse’s Earthly Effect

Series of images from the Japanese MTSAT satellite showing a shadow on Earth during the total solar eclipse on November 13/14. 2012. Credit: JAXA

A Japanese meteorology satellite captured the moving shadow from the total solar eclipse this week, and this animated series of images shows the shadow moving east-southeast across northeastern Australia and into the waters of the South Pacific Ocean. The images were taken by the MTSAT-1R in the 0.7 micrometer visible channel, as the Moon moved between the Sun and the Earth, blocking the Sun’s light. (Click on the image above if it is not animating in your browser).

The solar eclipse shadow was also visible from an image taken by the Korean COMS-1 satellite, and one of the GOES satellites operated by NASA and NOAA, seen below.


Image taken from the Korean COMS-1 satellite during the total solar eclipse on November 13/14. 2012.

Starting just after dawn in Australia, the eclipse cast a 150-kilometer (95-mile) shadow in Australia’s Northern Territory, crossed the northeast tip of the country and moved out across the South Pacific. As this was a total solar eclipse, the Moon completely covered the Sun, with just the Sun’s corona peeking out around the rim; totality lasted about 2 minutes. A partial eclipse was visible from east Indonesia, the eastern half of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and southern parts of Chile and Argentina.

Image from the GOES-15 satellite showing the eclipse’s shadow on Earth. Credit: NASA/NOAA

See our gallery of images from people on the ground in Australia during the eclipse.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madinson/CIMSS

Total Solar Eclipse, November 2012: Images and Video

View of the eclipse from Clifton Beach in Queensland, Australia. Credit: Camilla the Rubber Chicken

Here are some images and video from the total solar eclipse from today, November 13/14, 2012 (depending on where you were), which was visible only from the northern part of Australia. The image above comes from Camilla_SDO, the mascot of the Solar Dynamics Observatory mission. “Clifton Beach was cheering during the totality and Diamond Ring,” Camilla tweeted.

We’ll be adding more images as they become available.

This video comes via a TV news station in New Zealand:

Here are some photos via Robert Hollow, education and public outreach specialist who traveled to Maitland Downs in Queensland, Australia with the “Under a Darkened Star” Student Astronomy Conference, sponsored by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO):

Totality from Maitland Downs. Credit: Robert Hollow/CSIRO.

An eclipsed Sun rises over a ridge in Maitland Downs, Queensland, Australia. Credit: Robert Hollow/CSIRO.

A ‘wedding ring’ at end of totality from Maitland Downs. Credit: Robert Hollow/CSIRO

A view of the Sun after totality through a refractor telescope. Credit: Robert Hollow/CSIRO

Screenshot from the webcast feed from Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia at 20:30 UTC.

A montage of the Solar Eclipse, sent in by Julia, as seen from Adelaide, South Australia. Click to see a larger version.

Daniel Fischer traveled to Australia to watch the eclipse, and described the experience as “Pure drama with complicated clouds – slender solar crescents seen moments before C2 and after C3 but totality was invisible.” Here are a few of his images:

Eclipse watchers at Wangetti Beach in Queensland, Australia. Credit: Daniel Fischer.

Approaching totality, through the clouds at Wangetti Beach in Queensland, Australia. Credit: Daniel Fischer.

A sliver of a crescent, nearing totality with more clouds at Wangetti Beach in Queensland, Australia. Credit: Daniel Fischer.

A clouded out eclipse. Credit: Ian Musgrave.

Ian Musgrave from Adelaide, Australia traveled to Cairns in Queensland just for the eclipse, and was completely clouded out, but still took this interesting picture. “The sky went eerily dark, and the patch of sun on the sea went out,” he wrote on his blog. “Afterwards, the cloud went away just as the Sun appeared from behind the Moon. Amazing.”

Below is a group of images from Shahrin Ahmad, who wrote us, “With the weather in Cairns not promising, we decided to go inland to Mareeba, with a slightly shorter eclipse totality duration of 1 minute 39 seconds. We were lucky because the sky here was clear and free from clouds. With the Moon so low to the horizon, this eclipse seems ‘larger’ than usual, due to the Moon Illusion effect. It was certainly a spectacular eclipse!”

Diamond Ring effect seen at Mareeba. Credit: Shahrin Ahmad

Just moments before second contact. Credit: Shahrin Ahmad

Prominences, loops of plasma are seen emanating from the Sun’s limb during the eclipse. Credit: Shahrin Ahmad

Moonshadow. Credit: Shahrin Ahmad

More images from the webcasts:

Screenshot from the Panasonic feed from Fitzroy Island during totality.

Screenshot of NASA’s eclipse webcast feed just the Sun emerged from totality over Palm Cove, Australia. Via Jason Major.

Screenshot of the feed from Fitzroy Island at 20:18 UTC.

The Total Solar Eclipse Down Under: How to Watch it from Anywhere in the World

Scientists and interested skywatchers have been flocking to Cairns, Australia to witness one of the most spellbinding astronomical sights: a total solar eclipse. The November 13/14 total solar eclipse will only be visible in its entirety to ground-based observers watching from northern Australia, but several webcasts will be available so that people around the world can watch as well. At about 22:11:48 UT on November 13 (it will be the morning of Nov. 14th in Australia) the Moon will pass directly in front of the Sun, and totality will only last about 2 minutes, with the Sun having risen just 14 degrees above the eastern horizon. The total time of the event, from first contact to fourth contact (the end of a solar eclipse when the disk of the Moon completely passes from the disk of the Sun) will be about 3 hours.

During totality the Sun appears to have a white halo – a rare glimpse of the Sun’s million-degree plasma atmosphere, or corona, which is too washed out by the Sun’s brightness to be observed normally.

During an eclipse, “the Moon reveals the innermost corona, which manmade coronagraphs have trouble seeing,” said Shadia Habbal of the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii, who will be in Australia for the event. “That is where all the magnetic field and physical processes responsible for heating the corona are evolving most rapidly.”

For this total solar eclipse, the path of totality will be about 174 km (108 miles) wide and will cover 14,500 km (9,000 miles) over a 3-hour period.

Below is a list of webcasts for those not in Australia, but an important note if you ARE going to be in an area where you can see the eclipse: DO NOT look directly at the Sun, and especially do not look through a telescope or binoculars at the Sun with your eyes directly. Doing so could cause serious and permanent eye damage. There are special eclipse glasses, or you can make your own eclipse viewers. Mr. Eclipse has a whole list with instructions for pinhole cameras, and other safe viewing methods. If you have a telescope, the folks from Galileoscope have instructions for how to build a Sun-funnel for safe viewing.

Proba-2 image of the solar disc taken during the total eclipse of July 2010, combined with ground-based images taken at the same time to reveal the exquisite details of the solar corona. Credit: ESA

Slooh will be having their webcast at Slooh.com, starting Tuesday, November 13th at 11:30 AM PST / 2:30 PM EST / 19:30 UTC. Viewers can watch the show on their PC or mobile device and will have the ability to ask questions to the Slooh team, including the crew located in Cairns, using the Slooh Conversations section on the Slooh homepage. Viewers will also be able to snap the live pictures directly from the Slooh homepage using Pinterest. The broadcast team includes Patrick Paolucci, Bob Berman, Lucie Green, Matt Francis and Paul Cox.

Another feed will be from the Cairns Eclipse 2012 Ustream channel, broadcast from over Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: http://www.ustream.tv/CairnsEclipse2012, and their website is http://www.eclipse2012.org.au

This channel will be live from 11 a.m. PT (2 p.m. ET) on Nov. 13, and 5 am November 14th 2012 (AEST). It is considered the official destination website for the total solar Eclipse over Cairns and Great Barrier Reef will feature Terry Cuttle from the Astronomical Association of Queensland as the host. He will be joined by Kate Russo (eclipse chaser and author), Ben Southall (winner of the ‘Best Job in the World’ promotion and tourism ambassador), Richard Fitzpatrick (an underwater cameraman, will be live from under water) and Alan Hale (from Hale-Bopp comet who is studying comets close to the Sun which can only be seen during an eclipse).

Still another feed will be the Panasonic channel: Broadcast from Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas Resort:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/panasonic-eclipse-live-by-solar-power-1

Panasonic’s project, described as, “Filming the Sun, using the Sun” aims to capture and broadcast to the world a solar eclipse using only the power of sunlight. They’re using Panasonic’s high efficiency solar power-generating system, “HIT” to generate power with a portable battery back for power storage. They’ll then be able to broadcast the eclipse images captured on a Lumix GH2.

2012 Eclipse live from a Cairns Hot Air Balloon
http://www.hotair.com.au
Up to a dozen hot air balloons floating west of Cairns, Queensland Australia, with visitors from 20 different countries will be part of a live webcast of the 2012 total solar eclipse.

Cairns City Eclipse 2012 webcam
http://www.eclipsecairns.com
Can’t make it to Cairns to see the Eclipse? No problem! Just check back on November 14 before 6:39am AEST (GMT+10) to see it live on their webcam.

GLORIA Project
http://live.gloria-project.eu
Videos and pictures of the eclipse will be broadcast live on the internet starting at 20:30 UT. Additionally meteorological data will be collected to allow students to perform an interactive experiment. During the broadcast there will be live commentary in Spanish and English.

Live Web Camera from Port Douglas Australia 2012
http://www.zincportdouglas.com/solar_eclipse_port_douglas.html

We’ll be embedding a few of the feeds when they go live.

Find out more about the eclipse here.

Black Friday’s Secret Solar Eclipse

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While many in the U.S. will be recovering from Thanksgiving day meals and looking for ways to stretch their holiday shopping dollars at (hopefully local) retailers’ “Black Friday” sales, the face of the Sun will grow dark as the Moon passes in front of it, casting its shadow over the Earth. But it won’t be visible to American shoppers – or very many people at all, in fact… this eclipse will be hiding in the southern skies above Antarctica!

Visibility of Nov. 25 2011 annular eclipse. NASA GFSC

On Friday, November 25, an annular eclipse will occur, reaching a maximum coverage at 06:20:17 UT of magnitude .905. It will be the largest – and last – partial eclipse of the year.

But its visibility will be limited to the most southern latitudes… outside of the Antarctic continent, only New Zealand, Tasmania and parts of South Africa will have any visibility of the event.

An annular eclipse is similar to a total eclipse, except that the Moon is at a further distance from Earth in its orbit and so does not completely cover the disc of the Sun. Instead a bright ring of sunlight remains visible around the Moon’s silhouette, preventing total darkness.

The next solar eclipse will occur on May 20, 2012. It will also be annular, and even darker than the Black Friday one at a magnitude of .944. It will be visible from China, Japan, the Pacific and Western U.S.

Following that, the main event of 2012 would have to be a total eclipse on November 13, which will be visible from Australia, New Zealand and South America (greatest totality will occur over the South Pacific.) Several sites have already set up group travel events to witness it!

Feeling left out on cosmic occultations? Not to worry… there will be a very visible total lunar eclipse on the night of December 10, 2011 (weather permitting, of course) to viewers across the Northern Hemisphere. The Moon will pass into Earth’s shadow, turning gradually darker in the night sky until it is colored a deep rusty red. It’s a wonderful event to watch, even if not as grandiose as a total eclipse of the Sun.

(Plus it’s completely safe to look at, as opposed to solar eclipses which should never be directly observed without safety lenses or some projection device… for the same reasons that you shouldn’t stare at the Sun normally.)

For a listing of past and future eclipses, both solar and lunar, visit Mr. Eclipse here. And you can read more about the Nov. 25 eclipse on AstroGuyz.com.

 

Solar Eclipse by Orvill Aakra

Astrophoto: Solar Eclipse by Orvill Aakra

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Orvill Aakra captured this picture of the solar eclipse over the forest line back in 2003. It was when, according to him, he had no usable equipment so he had to improvise a lot.

Orvill used a 3mp compact camera, and taped a 8×50 marine binocular to the front along with a welding glass. No tripod. Now that’s being creative!

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group, post in our Forum or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.