Eclipse - 2012

Eclipse – 2012

Totality

After experiencing the Eclipse of 2002 in Woomera, South Australia with my daughter Laura, I was hooked. I vowed I was definitely going to do my best to see this rare event a second time. So ten years later, Liz and I agreed to take the kids to North Queensland to catch a glimpse of one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles.

There were differences between the two events. Woomera is in the desert of South Australia. So in 2002 we had an almost certain chance of cloud-free skies. The down-side was it was miles from nowhere, we had to camp out in the desert, and that eclipse only lasted 30 seconds.

Vila Paradiso - Palm Cove
Roll forward to 2012. Palm Cove is in tropical North Queensland. November is the start of the “Wet Season” where it rains incessantly for 4 months or more. There was a pretty big chance that clouds would foil our attempt of viewing the eclipse. The up-side was that Palm Cove is a beautiful resort town on the beach. We were able to book great accommodation across the road from the beach, with uninterrupted views of the morning sky. And this Eclipse would last over two minutes – four times longer than the previous one.

The Beach to Ourselves
We arrived at Palm Cove a few days before the main event. We had the beaches to ourselves. Although you could spot the odd geeky looking tourist in town (do I look geeky), this tropical paradise was serene.

Waiting for Totality
A couple of days later it was packed. Umbraphiles (look it up) as far as the eye could see. There were network TV cameras on the esplanade, high-powered telescopes, satelite dishes, and learned looking people with devices I didn’t have a clue about. We just grabbed a couple of beach towels, walked across the road from the hotel, and plonked ourselves down on the sand to wait for the main event.

Putting on the Eclipse GlassesWatching the Eclipse
We all had our Eclipse Glasses – I had bought them on eBay over six months ago. I gave them to Liz, because she was less likely to lose them than me πŸ™‚ Nevertheless, before the trip I think I asked her half a dozen times if she had packed the glasses. (I just wanted to make sure).

Clouds Before the Eclipse
And then disaster struck. The clouds started massing on the eastern horizon like they do most mornings at this time of year. The sun disappeared and two thousand people sat on the beach crossing their fingers and willing the clouds to part.

The Clouds Part
And they did! People cheered. I got a bit teary because I finally realized this was going to happen! We were going to see the eclipse. I had my watch synchronized to the second and counted off the minutes, the seconds to totality.

Totality
Totality

And then “It” happened. Have you ever heard several thousand people gasp in awe? I was ecstatic. “You can take your glasses off now” I said to the kids. “Oh Wow! Look at that!”. The sky went dark, the stars came out. And a fiery black hole appeared in the sky where the sun was a few seconds ago. And I could look straight at it. And, emotional petal that I am, I cried. People cheered, yelled, sighed, and just gazed at something simply beautiful.

And as you can see, I did manage to find a few seconds to take a couple of photos. The professionals got some amazing photos, but the images I came for were those that are now in my head. I’ll never forget what I saw, and how I felt.

And, I think I’m now an eclipse chaser. I’ve spent just over two and a half minutes of the last ten years in “Totality”.

I want more πŸ™‚

Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus

Telescopes
In a week of portentious astronomical events, we watched the Transit of Venus this morning.

It’s a rare occurence – it won’t happen again for over a century.

It’s also of historical significance because in 1769, James Cook sailed to the South Pacific to observe and measure the Transit of Venus so that scientists could get a better estimate of our distance from the Sun. The idea was that if you could calculate the exact time you observe the transit in one part of the world, and compared the differece with observations another part of the world, you could use that difference and the distance between observation points to work out how far away we were from the Sun.

I was impressed at the quality of the equipment that was available at our kids school. I think it’s wonderful that they are able to get a chance to watch such a special event.
Telescopes
An image of the sun was projected from the eye piece of a telescope onto a screen, and we were able to watch what was going on by looking at the screen – and therefore not putting our eyesight in danger.

I took photos of the screen with my mobile phone. Because I was standing at an angle to the screen, the disc of the sun looked egg-shaped. To fix this, I “stretched” the photos on my computer using a program called “Gimp” to make the sun look round again.
Projection Screen
The quality of the image was really good….
Solar Disc
If you look closely you can see a few sunspots in the middle of the disc of the sun, and the planet Venus just starting to appear at the “6 o’clock” position at the bottom of the disc.

The next series of photos shows Venus slowly crossing the lower edge of the disc of the sun as the transit begins….
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
22:33:59 UTC
In the photo above, notice the “Black Drop” effect – the disc of Venus appears to distend towards edge of the solar disc as if it is being stretched.
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit
Venus Transit

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse

Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012
We had a partial eclipse of the moon last night.

I took a few photos with our Canon EOS 400D. Unfortunately the zoom wasn’t very powerful, so I finished by taking a few photos with Liz’s Canon Powershot. I was surprized that the Powershot took much clearer photos than the DSLR. I was also surpsied how little exposure I needed. With the DSLR I used ISO 100, F/5.6 and speeds between 1/200 and 1/800 sec. With the EOS, I used ISO-800, F/8 and 1/2500 sec.

I enjoyed the experiment. This one was much easier to photograph than the Transit of Venus which happens tomorrow. I might leave that one to more experienced photographers πŸ™‚
Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012Partial Lunar Eclipse, 4 June 2012