Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Post-ecliptic aftermath

Yes, I know "ecliptic" has its own meaning; I am misusing the word for a bad pun. Fortunately, because we did not go anywhere, we did not end up stuck on the freeway for hours in a post-ecliptic wasteland.

I did not intend to write another post about the eclipse yesterday. After seeing it, I did not think it was overrated. I have thoughts about it.

I do see the advantage of being in the path of totality now. Hearing that we would see 97% of it sounded pretty good, but I can see what things we missed now, and they could have been pretty cool too. What we did see was still cool enough.

My first surprise was that it didn't really get that dark. It was not even as dark as the other one I remember, but apparently that day was overcast (and in October, so it makes sense).

It wasn't that much darker outside, but inside the house is was. I have not thought a lot about how much exterior light get into our house, but when some is cut off it really shows.

Honestly, if I had tried looking directly at the sun, I don't think I would have seen nearly as dramatic a reduction as the glasses revealed by cutting out all of the extra light. Obviously I could not test that out. Not only did I post a song parody PSA yesterday about not looking, but I am already pretty near-sighted and starting to need to squint at fine print; I mean, how many vision problems do I need?

(But I already knew I was smarter than the president.)

We had the special ISO-certified glasses, and seeing the glowing crescent sun through them was fascinating, but there were two other things I wanted to check out.

Although I did not have time to work out making a pinhole camera, I still wanted to try viewing through a pinhole. It initially did not work, as I believe I interpreted "pinhole" a little too literally. Once I enlarged it slightly, it worked, though getting everything angled right is still kind of annoying.

On the other hand, watching the light through the leaves was amazing. It's less dramatic in some ways, because there are so many of them. Also, as with the pinhole, turning your back on the eclipse when you do have the special glasses feels wrong, but they were so beautiful! I did track the sun getting bigger, and wondered if afterward I would find that there have been lots of little suns coming through the leaves all along that I just never noticed. No, there is no definition without the shadow. So I did not just see something fascinating and beautiful, but also ephemeral.

Obviously I did not watch in one unbroken spell; not only was I trying different things, but also from different places, and using both the front and back yards. As the sliver of sun got smaller, I thought not being in totality meant that it would just start going the other direction without ever going black. Instead it changed its position from the side to the top (very scientific description here). It was weird, reminding me that there is a lot of science that I don't know.

Beyond that, not getting the total blackness so being able to look at the corona, not feeling the temperature drop (possibly causing fog to form at the coast) and seeing how dark it really could get, there is a sense of lost opportunity. There was also extensive news footage and gorgeous photographs and I am okay with my experience. 

(Attempt to take picture with glasses over my camera lens, but trying to protect camera, eyes, and find the sun was too much. Leave that for the professionals.) 

Perhaps because of that missing factor (and who knew how big of a difference 3% could make?) I am not sure that we saw any strange animal behavior. Our cats did look out into the yard at us, standing still looking at the sun with dark film protecting our eyes, but I think that is more the cats noticing strange human behavior than anything else. Right after it was done a bird suddenly flew into the yard, but I don't know that it had just taken a short nap and then woke back up.

Now the only thing left to do is to try and do some good with the leftover glasses. Astronomers Without Borders will be collecting leftover glasses to redistribute to students in the paths of upcoming eclipses. If you think of how difficult a time some people had getting ISO-certified, verified glasses in the States, imagine how must more difficult it would be for low-income students in other countries.

They still need to get collection set up, but our house is waiting for them, and I hope you will too:

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