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A personal view of the solar eclipse

Tuesday, 29 August 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

A personal view of the solar eclipse
Above is the sequence of refracted images Hilah Simmons observed, facing west from her Gladstone Valley home during the eclipse. Though the moon appeared to move from right to left and upward across the face of the sun, she says that if she had been looking east toward the sun, the moon would have appeared to move downward.  Drawings by Hilah Simmons

A personal view of the solar eclipse

By Hilah Simmons

I wanted to watch the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, so I got ready by poking a pinhole in an index card, and grabbing a piece of white paper to project the image onto, while facing away from the sun. But a friend suggested I try using binoculars as well, of course facing away from the sun, and pointing the big end towards the sun.

My entire family had dispersed, so I had the next couple of hours without interruption, and clear skies allowed me to get the refracted image and record the movement of the hiding of most of the sun by the new moon. As son David reminds me, the pinhole and the binoculars focused the light and projected it onto the card, or the ground in the case of the binoculars.

As you probably know, in a solar eclipse, the moon obscures the light of the sun from Earth, when the moon gets directly in the way. The moon has to be a new moon in a solar eclipse; that is, the light from the sun is on the far side of the moon. Earth, moon and sun have to be in a straight line, which is a rare occurrence. That is because the moon’s orbit around Earth is tipped in relation to Earth’s path around the sun, about five degrees.

I wanted to figure out which direction the moon was moving in relation to the sun. Since I had my back to the whole event, I figured out that it would appear upside down and backward to me.

The first bite I saw occurred in the lower-right quadrant of the sun, and the moon appeared to be moving up and to the left, so I calculated that it must really be moving down and to the right.

Our daughter Sarah watched the event through the government-issued glasses, but reported that no, it seemed to move from right to left but downward. That means the sun appeared to move from left to right and upward behind the moon.

This shows the fallacy in trying to figure out everything myself, because I found out from the Internet that really the moon appeared to move from upper-right to lower-left, as Sarah observed. This must have something to do with me being backwards but not upside down.

The most exciting and amazing part of the whole two hours of observation happened when I noticed that the light of the sun coming through the leaves of the aspen tree at the corner of our deck appeared between shadows in the exact shapes of the crescent sun. The spaces between leaves acted like the pinhole projector, casting the images of the crescent sun onto the deck.

My other daughter, Debby, reminded me by phone to photograph it, so here’s my picture of the images on our deck. Even though we didn’t view the total eclipse, as did folks in the United States, the partial solar eclipse proved fascinating and amazing to me.

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Photo of Aug. 21 solar eclipse submitted by Vern Vare

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Crescent images projected on Hilah’s deck through spaces between the leaves of an aspen tree.   Photo by Hilah Simmons

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From the August 30, 2017 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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